Here You Come Again
Goodspeed’s Terris Theater in Chester
By: Karen Isaacs - Aug 19, 2023
Entering Goodspeed’s Terris Theater in Chester to see Here You Come Again, you view a cluttered living space with decorations for multiple holidays, a disco ball, things hanging from the ceiling, etc. Is this a hoarding situation?
You learn, after Kevin appears through an open window, that this is the attic of his parents’ home in Long View, Texas. It is spring 2020, and Kevin, a struggling comedian and bartender, has returned home after the comedy club he was working at (not as a comedian) has closed and his professionally successful boyfriend has broken up with him. His mother insists he remains isolated from them, so he lives in the attic, enters and exits via a ladder (so he doesn’t walk through the house), and hauls up his meals through the attic stairs with a fishing pole, pulling up a basket that his mother provides. Covid is shutting down the world, and people are retreating to a version of solitary confinement.
Depressed is just one word to describe his mood. After all, he is in his 40s, living with his parents, and his comedy career is going nowhere.
But you will notice a large poster of Dolly Parton covering a door and a T-shirt in the corner that says, “What Would Dolly Do?” The subtitle of the show gives it away: How Dolly Saved My Life in 12 Easy Songs.” (Actually, there are 16 songs in the show).
That’s the clue. Kevin is a superfan of Dolly. So, it seems only natural that during his time of loneliness and need, Dolly soon materializes. Is she a dream, a fairy godmother, or a hallucination? Who knows, and who cares? She is there she is, in all her fabulous costumes by Bobby Pearce.
This is the first theater piece I’ve seen that is so directly connected to the Pandemic. More, I’m sure, are in the pipeline.
To set the mood, Kevin makes jokes about rubber gloves, masks, and toilet paper. We all remember those days. He sprays disinfectant on his grocery boxes and cans, and washes his hands frequently, even though he is all alone.
We could call Kevin a “loser” – though he does have Jordan (the ex-boyfriend), who is having second thoughts about breaking up and texts Kevin requesting that he call and talk about getting back together. But even that doesn’t make Kevin feel better. He realizes the relationship was one-sided, with him being more like a maid or housekeeper than a partner.
Dolly serves as Kevin’s therapist and coach – supporting him and questioning him. As part of that process, the songs she wrote and some she didn’t but recorded help Kevin come to a better understanding of himself and what he really wants.
Even if you are not a big Dolly Parton fan, and I am certainly not overly familiar with her music, you will recognize some of the songs, including the title song “Here You Come Again” and “I Will Always Love You.”
In a note by Bruce Vilanch, one of the creators of the show with Gabriel Barre and Tricia Paoluccio, Here You Come Again was a Covid project. Paoluccio had been working on an idea for a show, but during the pandemic, the project not only came together but took a new direction.
Although Dolly Parton was not involved in this project, she did give the creators permission to use the songs and reviewed the script, requesting only one minor change.
Among the songs that Parton (played by Tricia Palouccio) and Kevin (played by Matthew Risch) sing include Parton’s own songs – “9 to 5,” “Love Is Like a Butterfly,” “The Seeker,” and “Jolene” among others. But also included is one of my favorites, “Islands in the Stream,” written by the BeeGees.
Gabriel Barre directed and choreographed the show. Let’s admit there is minimal dancing. He has kept it moving, and his vision of the production values – set, lighting effects, and more – transports us to Kevin’s world.
Risch looks exactly how you would picture Kevin – a little overweight, somewhat of a “sad sacK’ and someone in need of direction.
Paoluccio captures the essence of Dolly Parton without resorting to imitation. She projects the warmth and optimism that Parton always seems to project. She is aided in her transformation by the costumes, make-up (designed by Brian Strumwasser), and wigs.
Special credit must be given to hair and wig designer Bobby Zlotnik and lighting designer Alysandra Dogherty. There’s even a credit for Michael Misko as “magic consultant.”
Often Goodspeed’s Terris Theater presents brand-new works. Here You Come Again is not brand new (it has had a handful of productions throughout the country) but it is still very much a “work in progress.” In the past the Terris has presented Andrew Lloyd Webber’s By Jeeves, which had been produced in London’s West End both in its original and revised form. A revival/ revision of Jerry Herman’s Dear World also played the Terris.
You don’t have to love country music or Dolly Parton to thoroughly enjoy Here You Come Again.
It runs through Sunday, Aug. 27. For tickets or information, visit Goodspeed.org.
This content courtesy of Shore Publications and Zip06.com