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Dolly Parton, 2016
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Dolly Parton has made a musical version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and it’s coming to London

Get ready for ‘Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol’

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski
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 As most of us know by now, there are more strings to Dolly Parton’s bow than country music legend, gay icon and theme-park owner. Her Imagination Library has donated thousands of free books to London schoolkids, she helped fund the development of the Moderna vaccine, and she was heavily involved in – and featured in pre-recorded form – in the kitschy musical ‘9 to 5’ that played a season in the West End a little before the pandemic.

Well that’s not her only musical: she’s now co-created ‘Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol – A New Musical’ which is almost exactly what you might expect from the admittedly expansive title: it’s Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’, but with Dolly Parton songs and it’s set in the Smoky Mountain in rural Tennessee. Confusingly but probably a relief, it’s got absolutely no direct bearing on ‘A Smoky Mountain Christmas’, the 1986 Henry Winkler-directed TV movie starring Parton as a jaded country music star who flees LA and ends up caught up in seasonally appropriate rural hijinks.

‘Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol’, by contrast, is an altogether more serious affair that cleaves fairly closely to Dickens’s plot (three ghosts etcetera), albeit relocating the action to East Tennessee in the 1930s, with Ebeneezer Scrooge a miserly owner of a mining town who is approached by a trio of spirits as a big Christmas snowstorm engulfs the homestead. It’s adapted by David H. Bell, Paul T. Couch and Curt Wollan, with music and lyrics from the woman herself – as we understand it, new Dolly Parton songs reflecting the romance and difficulty of life in Great Depression-era Tennessee, and not ‘9 to 5’-style bangers.

It’s bobbed around America in various tryout incarnations, but this festive run at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall is by far its biggest outing to date, which is appropriate from Anglophile Dolly, who says: ‘Bringing our reimagined Charles Dickens classic to London feels like a homecoming. My songs weave the music of my beautiful Smoky Mountains into this timeless Christmas story, and I can’t wait for London audiences to hear them as we tell that story, set in a place that is truly special to me.’ 

‘Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol – A New Musical’ is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Dec 8-Jan 8. Tickets go on sale Jul 4 from www.dollyschristmascarol.com.

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