Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Dolly Parton and Barbra Streisand in the same week? It's happening in Tampa

When Dolly Parton learned she was performing in Tampa the same week as Barbra Streisand, she squealed out loud.

"Oh my goodness!" she chirped in her signature Smoky Mountain twang.

Yes, by some miracle of the heavens, after careers spanning more than a century between them, the two legends have found themselves headlining Tampa's Amalie Arena a mere four nights apart — Parton on Saturday, Streisand on Nov. 30.

"Through the years we've had many occasions to visit or to see each other at parties or different functions," Parton said (and oh, to be a fly on those walls). "I admire her. I think she's just incredible. And I know we're in the same town, but I think it's probably a different audience. Either way, I'd love to have some of her folks come over, and maybe some of mine will go see her."

No doubt. Legends like Streisand, 74, and Parton, 70, don't come to your city every day — this, in fact, will be Parton's first concert in the city of Tampa since the early '90s, and Streisand's first local show ever. This is a full-blown iconopolypse, the likes of which this or any other city may never see again.

Pop music these days is ruled by young queens like Beyoncé, Adele, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, and even they bow at the feet of legends like Streisand and Parton. It should be noted, both Streisand and Parton also released hit albums this year — Parton's Pure & Simple topped the Country Albums chart; Streisand's Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway hit No. 1 overall.)

When Carrie Underwood covered Parton's I Will Always Love You at her Tampa concert earlier this month, she did so with praise that could very well have been about Streisand, too.

"She is everything the rest of us are trying to be," she said. "Maybe someday, a couple of us will get there."

• • •

Whether you fall in Camp Babs or Camp Dolly, it's tough to argue they don't occupy a similar cultural orbit.

Look at everything their resumes have in common: Tens of millions of albums sold. Dozens of nominations for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony nominations (Streisand has won one of each). Accolades like the National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Streisand is the only singer with a No. 1 album in six decades. Parton owns a theme park that draws 3 million visitors per year.

For her folksy demeanor, Parton doesn't hide or shy from her status as an icon. Displayed at her personal museum at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., are countless outfits and artifacts from her life and career, and dozens of her trophies, magazine covers and platinum records.

"I really have accomplished a lot of things in my life, and I'm proud of every one of them," she said in a teleconference with journalists the day after winning the Country Music Association's Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. "It just makes you feel like you might have done something right."

Streisand's status is likewise indisputable, but arguably more rarefied. A storied perfectionist who is notoriously stage-shy, she's performed around 120 concerts since the 1970s, making each live appearance an exceedingly uncommon event.

"We'd understood that she was looking at doing some dates, and then she did a couple out on the west coast, and we were hoping that she would enjoy the experience and want to add some more," said Kevin Preast, Amalie Arena's senior vice president of event management. "We were fortunate enough to be in that conversation early. The fact that she had never played our market before was a selling point to give us a try."

How big a deal was it for Amalie to snag Streisand? Around the same time she became available, officials had been in talks to book another all-time icon: Paul McCartney.

"Unfortunately, it didn't bear any fruit," Preast said. "But the reality is, it was very similar dates to where Ms. Streisand is. So once that trail turned cold, we turned our focus and were able to land — I don't want to say a bigger fish, but something comparable."

Since the day the show was announced, the reaction has been "amazement," Preast said. "Different age groups of people that I never would have come up to about Barbra Streisand have been like, 'Oh, I'm in.'"

Talk to those fans, and you can hear it in their voice.

"A friend of mine told me she was coming, and we frantically got tickets that afternoon," said Sally Welton, 60, of St. Petersburg. "I should probably bring Kleenex. Because I think the moment I hear her start singing, especially a couple of songs that I love, I will get emotional. ... My Man, the one from Funny Girl. That song gets to me. From Yentl, where she sings about her father?"

Here, the emotion began to well in her voice.

"See, I'm starting to get where I can't talk," she said with a laugh. "I'm verklempt."

• • •

Country singer Cassadee Pope, like a lot of people, is a big fan of both Parton and Streisand.

"I remember watching The Way We Were when I was a kid, and that was one of my favorite movies," Pope said of Streisand's 1973 film. "Her overall endearing, captivating way was just amazing. I started singing when I was four years old, and I've always loved her voice and her commitment to her craft, how she's always perfected it over and over again."

And Parton? "When I see Dolly on stage, or I'm in her presence, there's just nothing like it. You're in the presence of a legend. That in itself is enough to make me want to reach out and touch her."

Parton, who grew up loving Kitty Wells and Rose Maddox, is aware of her influence on culture and younger artists, though she's quick to brush it off in her aw-shucks way.

"Most of them are much better than I ever was, as far as their vocal styles and all," she said. "I'm one of the early women that started out and held my place and grew with it and made the most of it, but sometimes it makes you feel like you're 100 years old. I guess I nearly am, but seriously, it makes me feel proud that I've done something to inspire and influence other people."

Parton also knows that, just like Streisand, she is beloved for reasons that go well beyond music.

"People seem to always relate to my stories and to me and my rags-to-riches-background, Cinderella kind of story," she said. "We all have our story."

She knows, too, that she has become an icon for members of the LGBT community, a role she takes on with respect.

"We're all God's children, and it is not up to us to pass judgment on anybody," she said.

When it's pointed out that the LGBT community might represent the biggest cross-section of her fans and Streisand's in Tampa, Parton once again unleashed a mighty Appalachian cackle.

"I'm sure you're right!" she said. "Maybe I'll have a bunch of Streisand girls-slash-boys in my audience, because I'm always seeing Dollys out there. It's so funny, I always say they look more like me than I do. But I bet she may have some Dollys, and I may have some Streisands."

Only in Tampa, and only this week. Aren't we lucky?

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

 
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