Andrea Pattison lives The Dolly Parton StoryBy Caroline Cook
January 31, 2013
Sinder Andrea Pattison has been working a bit more than nine to five lately.
When she’s not sourcing rhinestone covered costumes, or trying on blonde wigs, she’s busy writing songs for her country album.
By day she goes by the name of Andrea, but by night she swaps her broad Geordie accent for a Tennessee twang, and becomes musical legend Dolly Parton.
“It all started by accident about three or four years ago,” she says. “When I did my own gigs people were saying ‘you really sound like Dolly Parton’.
“All of a sudden I thought why not try and put a show together?
“I always did a few Dolly Parton songs in my show – I’d been a wedding singer for 13 years and wanted to do something different.”
Andrea began looking for Dolly Parton style costumes and wigs, but she says it wasn’t easy to track them down, with some replica costumes costing up to £2,000.
“It was a challenge getting the costumes and the wigs right because when I started I was getting these wigs imported from America but they’re not very comfortable to wear,” she says, “and I wanted to get things as accurate as I could.
“The first costume I had made was based on one she wore in 1983.
“She has only performed in this country three times in my life, the first in 1983, and we managed to find some footage of that gig.
“The white dress she wore for it was incredible, all covered in fringing and beads.
“I had it made by someone that didn’t get it right and I was really upset but eventually I found a lady, Liza Grant, who could help.
“She made a lot of dance costumes and I thought maybe she could get it right. She offered to make it just for the cost of material and it was just a dream come true.”
Liza has since made three exact replicas of Dolly’s costumes which Andrea wears for her shows.
“I burst into tears when I first saw the dress because she got it spot on.”
After getting her costumes sorted Andrea then faced the challenge of mastering Dolly’s accent.
“When we did my first show as Dolly, before we had the costumes, I did a few jokes in character and people were saying ‘you should do the voice more’ and I thought that might be hard to keep all the way through.
“But my husband and I sat down and wrote a whole script for the show.
“Now I can ad lib as Dolly too,” she adds in Dolly’s Deep South accent.
With Dolly being such a huge part of her life, Andrea often finds herself slipping into the singer’s shoes, even when she’s not on stage.
“I was at my mam’s and I read somewhere that actors can have days in character so I went round speaking to everyone in character,” she says.
“My little seven-year-old nephew Alex heard me talking and he said ‘Auntie Andie, you’re crazy’!”
In the show Andrea sings Dolly’s hits like I Will Always Love You and Jolene, as well as performing some other country classics like Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E and a few original songs.
“The audience really get into it,” she says.
“The amazing thing is we have shows where people turn up in cowboy boots and wigs.
“I had one show where a whole row was in blonde wigs. It’s brilliant because as soon as you go into 9 to 5 they go for it.”
Having devoted the last four years to Dolly, Andrea’s dream came true in 2011 when she came face-to-face with the legend herself.
“I talk about it in the show so I won’t say too much, but when I got there I was so awe-struck and humble it didn’t go quite to plan,” she says.
“I planned to talk about the show but ended up not saying anything about it!”
Despite missing her chance to talk to Dolly about the show, Andrea says her biggest dream would be to share the stage with her idol.
“There’s a Dolly Parton tribute act in Vegas called Sandy Anderson.
“I sent her my album and she was very supportive.
“She got to sing with Dolly and they did Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better,” she says,
“If I ever got to sing with her that would be it.
“That would be as much as I could ever ask for. I daren’t even dream it.”
Andrea Pattison performs The Dolly Parton Story at South Hill Park on Tuursday, February 7. Call 01344 484123 or visit www.southhillpark.org.uk