It takes attending just one of the many stellar performances at Dollywood to recognize and appreciate the exceptional musical talent at this park. The Entertainment Team prides itself not only in hiring top-notch, experienced performers but also with spotting new talent and giving them a chance to shine at Dollywood as they develop into seasoned actors and singers.
Chance Smith and Drew Slice are both a part of the team of producers and entertainment managers responsible for casting, supervising and directing the shows and acts at Dollywood’s Golden Ticket and Brass Ring award-winning theme park. I sat down with them to get an insider’s scoop to their approach to casting both prominent roles and ensembles. Puzzle-piecing together the much-loved acts with the right performers is not an easy job. Chance and Drew have it down to a science, thanks to their years as performers at Dollywood, deep familiarity with the culture and expectations for their staff and 15+ years of experience working together as a team.
Starting with auditions in January, Dollywood’s Entertainment Team begins their search for performers through much of the season, with additional performers added during the popular Christmas season.
Here are the top three things that Chance and Drew look for when casting roles:
You may think that the first step for any actor booking a role is to attend the audition. In fact, actors oftentimes begin to prepare weeks before they even step foot in the casting office. In the case of Dollywood auditions where competition is high, preparedness is of the utmost importance. Actors are expected to know their materials well and deliver them with confidence.
Dollywood hosts some of the best talent in the Southeast and around the country, so actors, singers and performers must have previous experience on stage or have exceptional raw talent. Versatility is of the utmost importance, as performers will sometimes be required to sing different genres of music like bluegrass, 50s, pop-style or country. Dance ability also is a key element at auditions.
Hopeful performers who have a positive attitude to challenges, are friendly, supportive of their fellow actors and exude confidence will stand apart from the crowd. Eyes are on performers as soon as they walk into the audition space to gauge whether they will fit into the culture of Dollywood, known widely as a place where heartfelt hospitality is found.
It’s easy to see how much love Chance and Drew have for their work at Dollywood and ensuring that every season the crowds are entertained at the highest levels. Whether it be Danny in Dreamland Drive-In, the mom in Christmas in the Smokies or beloved meet and greet characters like Flit and Flutter, much effort is put into finding the perfect performer for each role.
Dollywood is recognized for its authentic experiences and friendly atmosphere. On my walk back from our hour-long interview, as bluegrass music filled the air, I watched while Chance and Drew took the time to check in on cast members who were having lunch between shows and stopped to chat with long-time returning guests they recognized.
The performers at Dollywood are absolutely first-rate and deserve recognition for their superb talents, but credit for the amazing show performances should also go to dedicated people like Chance and Drew. With their love for Dollywood and its stages, they work extraordinarily hard behind the scenes to cast each role perfectly so that we can be impressively entertained.
Live auditions for the 2022 season will be by appointment only on Saturday, Jan.15 and Saturday, Jan. 22 in Pigeon Forge and Saturday, Feb. 19 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Follow @DollywoodAuditions on Facebook for details.