I recently visited one of Dolly Parton’s Pigeon Forge shows—Smoky Mountain Opry—and what a pleasant surprise! Full disclosure here: I pretty much love any kind of show like this – professional or amateur. Singing, dancing, fancy costumes… what’s not to love about that?! But honestly, I was not prepared for this show. I have seen many Broadway productions, have been to lots of concerts, and I just didn’t expect that a show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, could compare. But boy, what a shock I was in for!
The theatre is nice, but not opulent. My husband and I had fun looking at the display cases in the lobby. The cases included memorabilia from such stars as Earnest Tubb, Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton.
Then, the opening act began – and WOW! The set was colorful and detailed. The costumes were elaborate and unique. The singers’ voices were outstanding. There were aerialists, and the first two songs were knockouts from The Greatest Showman. By the time this opening set ended with a spray of confetti, I was sold! They obviously put their resources where they should – into the show itself.
The “emcee” for the show is impressive, with a resume that includes being the first and only female ringmaster for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. No rank amateurs here! Let me give you another myth buster: I had thought since it was early in the season, this performance might be a sort of a “dress rehearsal” for the busier summer months, but that was not the case at all! The performers even include a stellar live band of seven instrumentalists—a few of whom are given a chance to shine individually.
The vocalists are strong enough to carry the show and entertain you, but the addition of the featured dancing really takes the show to a higher level.
There are hundreds of different beautiful costumes throughout the experience and I should mention also that there are many stunning special effects – from rain to lasers to moving sidewalks. You have no idea what they will do next.
Appropriately for a Tennessee-based show, the next set after The Greatest Showman opening jumped into country music favorites, followed by a wonderful selection of Broadway and show tunes. A comedian and juggler (“Slim Chance”) performed twice during the show and provided a nice counterpoint to the music. He was laugh-out-loud hilarious and very talented as well. He may have been my husband’s favorite part of the show. Slim was definitely strong enough to stand alone and not feel like a “placeholder” while the musicians rested and got ready for the next act.
After the Broadway set was a short intermission, followed by hit songs through the decades – starting with the Big Band era of the 1940’s and moving through each decade until the 1990’s. This was a particularly strong part of the production, with elaborate sets and a constant rotation of fabulous costumes. Probably my favorite moment in the show occurred during this time – a big tap dancing number with the entire cast while a soloist sang “Get Happy.” It was wonderful and good enough to make me say, “Oh wow!” under my breath. A couple of inspirational gospel songs followed, then the show ended well with a tribute to the military and first responders.
My husband and I talked on the way home about how there was no “weak link” in the show. From a layperson’s perspective, each one of the featured singers (four males and four females) had incredibly beautiful voices. One thing I appreciated is that these classic songs sounded like they were “supposed” to sound – familiar to the audience. In other words, the singers didn’t try to make them so unique as to not be able to recognize the song.
The ensemble added so much to the show with their creative and skillful dancing, which perfectly interpreted and enhanced the songs. The show even includes a couple who does silk ribbon aerial acts and a costume change that had my husband and I looking at each other with mouths agape, asking, “How did they do that?!”
This show was as good as any variety show I’ve seen anywhere. And certainly a wonderful surprise to find it right down the road from my home in Knoxville – I can’t believe I hadn’t gone before now.
We were gifted this set of tickets so that I could write this blog, but I told my husband as we left, “I would pay for tickets and come see this show again tomorrow!” That’s how entertaining it was. I am already looking forward to bringing friends and family to see Smoky Mountain Opry. I think everyone from my 5-year-old granddaughter to my 78-year-old father would love it.
Smoky Mountain Opry alternates with “Magic Beyond Belief” starring Darren Romeo, so take note of that if you are looking for tickets.
The Smoky Mountain Opry currently has shows every night at 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and a 3 p.m. show on Thursdays.
Phone: (865) 428-7469