Illinois Central College Guest Artists Series Presents Tribute to Dolly Parton on May 18

       The U.K.’s top Dolly Parton impersonator will make her American stage debut in East Peoria when Kelly O’Brien presents The Dolly Show on May 18 at 7:30 pm in the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center.

       O’Brien, who is originally from Australia, said that she connected early on with much of the music from Parton.

       “I grew up listening to country music a lot,” O’Brien said. “In Australia, country music’s quite popular. My parents were always playing Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline…that kind of thing. So I started listening from an early age.

       “I think subconsciously, it got into my body and into my head. When I was 14, I started singing in my first band, and country music was a big influence.”

       O’Brien said she feels Parton’s genuine personality connects with audiences and has helped her remain popular over the years.

       “I think she’s so authentic and so down to earth, and she’s just such a beautiful person,” O’Brien said. “And so humble and kind…I think a lot of that has been lost along the way with music somewhere. She sings stories from her heart and tells stories from her heart and her childhood and her life. I think she wants to make people’s lives better; she wants to improve people’s lives.

       “I think in all this hype of music and what’s going on in the world, she’s a constant source of reflection and inspiration. And she’s beautiful to look at; she’s gorgeous inside and out.”

       O’Brien said she does not just pay tribute to Parton, but rather she tries to take on Parton’s persona during the entire event.

       “I’m a complete impersonator,” O’Brien said. “I’m younger than Dolly, but I met her in 2011 and we looked almost the same age. From the minute I’m in costume, I’m just her.

       “At the start, I did sometimes drop the persona, and people didn’t like that. They wanted me to stay in the persona even after the show when they were talking, they don’t want me to speak in my Australian accent; they want to believe that Dolly’s right there in front of them.”

       O’Brien’s performance is the final event in the 2018-2019 ICC Guest Artists Series, a series of performances by professional entertainers held throughout the academic year in the ICC Performing Arts Center Mainstage Theatre.

       The Fondulac District Library is be highlighted as the ICC Guest Artists Series Community Partner for this show. The Community Partner program features a different community or non-profit organization at each ICC Guest Artists Series event. Those attending the show who make a monetary donation to the community partner at the event will be entered in a drawing for tickets to a future ICC Guest Artists Series event.

       Tickets cost $26 for the general public and $16 for students.

       The ICC Guest Artists Series is presented by the Arts at ICC, which has a rich history of enhancing the arts community and expanding education beyond the classroom. Arts at ICC presents more than 500 exhibits, performances, lectures, rehearsals, meetings, master classes, clinics, seminars, receptions, orientations, forums, auditions and tournaments annually.

       For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call the box office at (309) 694-5136.

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