Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol review – humbug hoedown
Southbank Centre, London
Parton’s music is as warming as ever but a snowfall of schmaltz and minimal menace make this Dickens adaptation sickly sweet
Here is Scrooge and his crew as we have not seen them before: airlifted to the Appalachian mountains of the 1930s, stuffed into hand-knitted sweaters and assembled for hoedowns as they sing Dolly Parton’s festive songs. This twist on Charles Dickens’ Christmas staple is nothing if not novel. But sickly sweet and simply not spooky enough, it is also one just for Parton’s diehard following.
With Parton writing the music and lyrics, the songs and the band do not disappoint. There are infectious bluegrass numbers like Smoky Mountain Christmas, and beautiful, meditative ones like Appalachian Snowfall. Overtly Christian lyrics invoke Jesus and there is a church choir sound, although most simply sound like “Dolly”, especially in the mouth of Vicki Lee Taylor who plays various characters including Mrs Cratchit and sings gloriously (as do the entire ensemble).