SEQUIM — It’s nice when Dolly Parton compliments you on your moves.
Carol Swarbrick Dries, actor, singer and Sequim resident, had that distinct pleasure after appearing in “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square.” The movie musical premieres today on Netflix, with Swarbrick Dries as a member of the cast.
During the shoot in Atlanta, Parton “pointed out one little thing I do in the opening number,” Swarbrick Dries recalled.
“‘I love that little shimmy you do; I never learned how to shimmy,” the superstar told her fellow performer.
Parton, 74, and Swarbrick Dries, 72, first met at a table reading of “Christmas on the Square,” which also stars Christine Baranski, Jenifer Lewis and Treat Williams.
“She was just as sweet as she is in all of the interviews,” Swarbrick Dries said of Parton, who’s been giving a lot of those lately.
Besides the new Netflix movie, she has just published her “Songteller” memoir, released her “Holly Dolly Christmas” album and, earlier this year, announced a $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University for coronavirus vaccine development.
Parton’s “Christmas on the Square” — for which she wrote all 14 musical numbers — was filmed back in summer 2019, with Debbie Allen of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Fame” fame at the helm as choreographer, director and executive producer.
By that fall, the decision was made to hold it for the 2020 holiday season. Nobody knew, of course, that Netflix and other streaming platforms would become virtually the only format for movies and musicals like this one.
The “On the Square” message is on point, Swarbrick Dries believes. The story is a version of “A Christmas Carol” with the Scrooge as Ms. Regina Fuller (Baranski).
She plans on evicting the residents of a small-town neighborhood in order to sell out to a mall developer. Swarbrick Dries portrays Granny Hoover, who works in the town’s general store. Parton, as a glamorous angel, appears, and helps Regina see life in a new light.
“The story is very cleverly clothed by Maria Schlatter, who wrote the screenplay,” Swarbrick Dries added. The set was much like Main Street in Disneyland — “absolutely complete,” she said — with the townspeople and the actors all interconnected.
“It’s in this intimate town, not unlike where we live. Maybe that’s why it resonated so much,” said Swarbrick Dries, who moved to Sequim 17 years ago.
The performer may appear in another movie one day on Netflix or elsewhere. The film version of her one-woman show portraying Miss Lillian Carter, mother of President Jimmy Carter, is finished, and the production team is seeking a distributor.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, senior reporter in Jefferson County, can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]