Natalie Douglas

September 30, 2014

Natalie Douglas“Hello Dolly,” Natalie Douglas’s recent tribute to Dolly Parton at Birdland, provided a memorable cabaret experience. Her vocal instrument is incomparable; she segues easily from a smoky contralto to a pinging, piercing mix that is as rich and resplendent as early Streisand.

What makes her especially unique is her sunny disposition. She knows it and commented on it in the show, remarking that while her adoptive parents had very dark dispositions, she always saw the bright side of life. It is this combination of vacant valley girl crossed with Pillsbury doughboy delight that made for an evening of great story and song.

The show opened big with the uptempo “Rocky Top” (Felice & Boudleaux Bryant), after which came eight ballads: “Coat of Many Colors” (Parton), “After the Gold Rush” (Neil Young), “Single Women” (Michael O’Donoghue), “Little Sparrow” (Parton), “Here You Come Again” (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil), “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (Bob Dylan), “Farther Along” (Rev. W.A. Fletcher and other writers variously credited), and my personal favorite of the evening, “Down from Dover” (Parton).

I don’t usually enjoy ballad-heavy sets, but Douglas pulled it off with a wink in her eye that let the audience know it was all gonna work out just fine. Her very essence oozes the British slogan “keep calm and carry on.” She can take us down to the depths, but no matter how low she goes, her eyes always end on the heavens, visioning a brighter tomorrow—and we believe in it, too.

There were plenty of crowd-pleasing hits: “Here You Come Again” (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil), “Peace Train” (Yusuf Islam, fka Cat Stevens), “Stairway to Heaven” (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, additional lyrics by Parton), “I Will Always Love You” (Parton), and “Jolene” (Parton). All of the arrangements have been set so that Douglas’s numerous money notes ring out in just the right spot on every song.

Music director Mark Hartman played accordion, piano and provided backup vocals. His wonderful arrangements are simple and traditional, with no changes of tempo or feel, no mash-ups. The band, featuring Scott Kuney on guitar and mandolin, Michael Blanco on bass and Joe Choroszewski on drums, was impeccable; Shanna Sharp on vocals and guitar was a particular stand-out.

Natalie Douglas is a brilliant performer who has a tremendous vocal talent, charisma and command that tell you you don’t have to worry about a thing—she has taken care of everything for you. She offers a glimpse of the cabaret genre at its best.

“Hello Dolly”
Birdland  –  September 15


About the Author

Tonya Pinkins is an award-winning actress, singer, writer, director, author and mother of four. She enjoys the arts in all their forms.