In attending the second "preview" performance night of "Journey to Dollywood", the Matrix Theatre proved to be an almost too intimate experience for such a broad over the top homage to Dolly Parton. Simply put, this play is a MUST see for all L.A. Dolly fans!
From the opening sequence of projected Dolly photos, the play continues to serve as a collection of Dolly trivia and endearing remarks throughout. The lead, "Jolene", played by actress and the playwright Jessie McCormack, pulls the audience into her character and makes you want to have open conversation with her about Dolly. Clearly "Jolene's" life is one that has been sprinkled with “Dolly dust” and she lovingly looks up to her idol.
Her less than inspiring boyfriend, "Manny," played by Erik Van Wyck, is the local mechanic, dinner owner and motel owner. He's a rough guy from back East, who "Jolene" has shared a good portion her adult life with, but without getting anywhere except behind his dinner counter.
"Cici,” "Jolene's" fellow co-worker, is played by a very Reese Witherspoon-like, only with black hair, actress Melissa Greenspan. "Cici" is a loveable southern girl who thinks she can charm her way out of any situation, but proves to be a true friend to "Jolene" despite her missteps.
The warm and inspiring stranger "Joshua," played by actor Henry Gummer, stops at the dinner unassumingly for a rest, but finds himself caught up in the events of a sleepy-town dinner where not much happens.
Interspersed with Dolly's music, sometimes used for comedy relief, the play is chock-full of some of Dolly's best quips. "Jolene" even has a “moment” with Dolly towards the end, when she is faced with a difficult decision. All ends well for "Jolene," and in the end, her "Journey to Dollywood" is fulfilled.
In a much applauded credit to an only four person cast, the acting and stupendous writing by Jessie McCormack, deserve a bigger venue and audience. Don't miss this adorable and funny play on Melrose. Bravo!