Fans of Dolly Parton will have a chance to see a first class tribute to the Queen of Country Music next week at Mermaid Theatre.
Leisa Way, who got her show business break in 1987 in Prince Edward Island when she was cast as the seventh Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown Festival, will bring her Rhinestone Cowgirl: A Tribute to Dolly Parton concert to Windsor March 22.
“It's very theatrical,” said Way in a phone interview. “It's not just a cheap little tribute concert. The musicians I have are some of the best in Canada. We really present this music and her life story with such great love and respect.”
Accompanying Way on stage will be several accomplished musicians, including Cape Bretoner Aaron Solomon, a fiddler who has played with Shania Twain, and drummer Dave Wilson, a composer who has provided music for the Ellen DeGeneres Show and E-Talk Daily.
In total, Way said, there will be 16 stringed instruments on stage.
“It's quite an amazing group of musicians,” said Way.
The audience will be treated to the full Dolly Parton experience. The Ontario-based singer dresses in elaborate costumes created by Parton's costume designer, energetically mixing tidbits of information, humourous quips and songs that have spanned decades. About 30 songs will be performed.
“She's one of the only artists in history (to have)... number one hit records in four consecutive decades and top five hit records in five consecutive decades,” said Way.
She finds her tribute concert is appealing to both young and old, as Parton has found a way to stay relevant through the years.
“She was an amazing influence on all genres of music — not just country music,” said Way.
“In the 2000s, she was a guest star on Hannah Montana with Miley Cyrus so what I'm finding is I'm getting little kids and teenagers who come to see our concert because they’re such a fan of Dolly's from that television show,” she noted.
“Our audience spans from about 12 years old to 80s and they all have different favourite songs because they all remember her from a different decade of her career. It's really fascinating.”
Some of the most popular songs by Parton include 9 to 5, Islands in the Stream, Coat of Many Colors, and Jolene. She also wrote the late Whitney Houston's hit I Will Always Love You.
“For her to come from where she came from and to be one of the most wealthy and famous people in the entire world right now is really an amazing story.” - Leisa Way
This will be the first time the tribute concert will be in the province since the show was created about three years ago.
“In the concert, as I'm telling the story of her life, most audience members say, 'I had no idea.' You just think of her as this... character that we all know. She sings great songs but they have no idea what a great humanitarian she is,” said Way.
Parton was one of 12 children born to Avi Lee and Robert Parton in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The family was incredibly poor, with no running water or electricity.
After hitting the big time, Parton created Imagination Library, a foundation that would see every child born in her county receive one book a month from the day they were born until they turned five years old. The program has spread world-wide and more than five million books are mailed out to children annually.
“When her whole life changed; when she became famous and of all a sudden was making money, she never, ever forgot that there's a whole other world of people who are struggling to make a living and sometimes that means they never learned how to read and write,” said Way, noting the difference Parton has made in the lives of countless children.
As such, 30 per cent of the CD proceeds of Rhinestone Cowgirl: A Tribute to Dolly Parton are donated to Parton's foundation.
“For her to come from where she came from and to be one of the most wealthy and famous people in the entire world right now is really an amazing story,” Way said.
Tickets for the March 22 concert cost $35 for adults and $33 for seniors, students and children. There is reserved seating for the 7 p.m. concert. Tickets are available at Moe's Place Music Sales in Windsor.
“I love the fact that after the concerts, the audience comes up and they're in awe of this person the way I am because I'm a true fan. That's why I'm doing these concerts.”