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When Kenny met Dolly: country music magic

A tribute act covering Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton face one daunting task: recreating the experience of a pair of extremely well-know performers who have sold more than 200 million albums. Actually, make that two tasks: choosing which of the long string of hits to showcase in a two-hour show.

Marty Edwards and Marie Bottrell will have that all figured out prior to hitting the stage at Maryhill’s Commercial Tavern for a Dec. 1 concert, “Kenny and Dolly: Together Again.”

A country musician since the early 1970s, Edwards has been doing Kenny Rogers tributes since 1998. Based in Las Vegas, he’s taken his act around the globe, and has appeared on Oprah, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and CNN.

ALL THE HITS Las Vegas-based entertainer Marty Edwards teams up with Canadian country music legend Marie Bottrell in "Kenny and Dolly: Together Again," on stage Dec. 1 at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill.

In contrast, Canadian country music legend Marie Bottrell will be making her first appearance as Dolly Parton. With a total of 18 top-40 radio hits, Bottrell is an eight-time Juno nominee and a two-time CCMA Female Vocalist of the Year. She was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in September 2010.

Having performed as Patsy Cline, she’s familiar with the tribute genre. Cline is an iconic figure in country music, but there is little video footage or audio interviews of her. It’s just the opposite with Parton, where movies, TV appearances, music videos and countless interviews have ingrained in the public’s mind her look and sound.

Singing the songs is one thing, but Parton’s personality is so big that recreating it is the crucial part, said Bottrell in a phone interview from her London, Ont. home.

“There’s hardly anybody who doesn’t know who Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton are,” she said, acknowledging the expectations.

It’s one thing to get into character with costumes, wigs and makeup, but there’s also the singing, tonality, posture and gestures to take into account.

“The goal is to make it believable,” explained Bottrell, though in the end it’s all about the music and getting it just right. “You want to make it a fun experience. If they’re smiling and singing along and tapping their feet, then we’re doing our jobs.”

In preparation, she’s going through Parton’s catalogue: the show will feature a list of her hits, including 9 to 5, Jolene, Coat of Many Colours and Will Always Love You. Narrowing down the choices has been the hard part.

“I grew up listening to her, and I have the odd Dolly Parton song in my repertoire over the years,” she said. “My favourite Dolly Parton song of all time is “Here You Come Again.” I remember listening to that as a teen and thinking it was so different from what other country music sounded like. That will be fun to do.”

For his part, Edwards will be drawing on Rogers’ long list of hits, The Gambler, Coward of the County, Lucille, Lady, and She Believes in Me among them. Together, they’ll present Parton’s duets with Rogers such as Islands in the Stream.

“Kenny and Dolly: Together Again” is set for Dec. 1, 8 p.m., at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill. Tickets are $15, available at the venue or by calling 519-684-3644.

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