If you love Dollywood, chances are you’ve fallen in love with the many captivating shows. Usually, I’m so busy loving the shows that I don’t stop to consider what it takes to make these productions happen. Take, for example, the three shows in The Little Engine Playhouse. Every summer, Dollywood showcases three books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. In 2019, the shows included The Little Engine That Could, The Coat of Many Colors, and Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon. These are three unrelated stories in very different settings with very different characters. You can catch all three shows twice every day in Heartsong Theater.
In order to make these shows happen, the cast has to flip the stage three times for the first round of shows, and then three times again for the second round of shows! It sounds exciting, so I took a look behind-the-scenes. With so many shows back-to-back, there are lots of props and stage tools to move and hide. So, how do they do it? After the show, I talked with the stage manager. She explained that as the show is happening, people are already moving things for the next show. They have 15 minutes between shows to completely flip each set, so this makes the transition between shows a bit easier. Most of the bigger pieces, like Dolly’s cabin in The Coat of Many Colors and the mountain in The Little Engine that Could are on wheels. This makes them glide easily into place.
Similarly, costumes are quick changes so the performers can move from one character to the next as seamlessly as possible. There are even costume changes within each show!
Beyond the impressive nature of how these productions are pulled off, these stories are a lot of fun. Each show is 15-20 minutes in length. You can find more information about each show here.