PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Dec. 11, 2012) – Lakieta Bagwell, who has sung with Dolly Parton and her family, Lee Greenwood and many others, has returned to Pigeon Forge to star in “Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry” after a several year hiatus from music due to family medical issues.
Fans may remember her from singing at many venues, including Dollywood, Southern Nights, the American Music Theater and the Grand Ole Opry.
“This show is such a blessing, and I am so happy to be back doing what I love in Pigeon Forge,” Bagwell said.
Some of Bagwell’s most joyful memories revolve around singing gospel as a child in church, where her father was the minister. Throughout her career, Bagwell has attributed her success to God.
“There is a verse in the Bible that says, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart,” Bagwell said. “I trust God that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing singing at the spectacular ‘Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry’ Show in Pigeon Forge.”
Bagwell is the type of singer who gets emotional easily and draws her listeners into the intimate and private world of an old friend.
“I get so emotional singing ‘O Holy Night’ that I cry and sing at the same time sometimes,” she said. “When the lights go up, and the music starts, it is so moving.”
“’The Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry’ show has elements that are breathtaking and make it unforgettable,” she said. “There is Toyland, Santa, some of the best, world-renowned singers and dancers and the funniest comedy around. This is a top-quality show from start to finish with something for everyone – from old classics to new takes of old classics, a little country and a little jazz.”
Bagwell, started her professional career in 1989 at Dollywood in one of its first production shows, “Smoky Mountain Song.” She was featured in many shows at the park, including “Fire on the Mountain” and “Christmas in the Smokies.”
“I wanted to be Dolly as a child growing up,” she said “My aunt was a beautician, and my cousin and I would play dress up. I would always put on the blonde wigs and dress up like Dolly. I was really star-struck when I saw her for the first time.
“Dolly came to ‘Christmas at the Smokies,’ and I sang ‘Tennessee Christmas,’ and Dolly said to me, ‘You have the most beautiful voice, and that is the most beautiful I have ever heard that song sung,” Bagwell said. “That was validation to me on a professional level that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.”
Bagwell’s goal became to sing for the Lord and to make Dolly proud.
“I was in a show at Dollywood called ‘Fire on the Mountain,’ and I sang ‘Appalachian Memories’,” Bagwell said. “Dolly came to the show one day, and she sent word back that I had made her proud. That was a highlight of my career for me.
“And then one day, I had the opportunity to actually perform on stage with her.” she said. “Dolly had made a video with Billy Ray Cyrus, and she wanted dancers. I was picked as one of the Romeo Dancers. That was a lot of fun.”
Bagwell eventually formed a band with Parton’s brother, Randy, and Parton’s sister, Rachel Parton George, and Jimmy Bryant (who is now appearing at the Smith Theater).
The Honey Creek country pop group, as they were known, worked on an album with multi-Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer Mike Post, who is best known for his TV theme songs for such primetime series as “Law and Order,” “NYPD Blue,” “The Rockford Files,” “Magnum P.I.,” “Hill Street Blues” and others.
The Honey Creek Group also appeared on the television series, “Prime Time Country,” with Gary Chapman and on a television Easter special with Dolly called “Dolly Parton’s Precious Memories” in 1999. They also opened for Dolly at her foundation concerts. The group eventually went their separate ways.
Bagwell then sang backup at the Grand Ole Opry with Lee Greenwood.
“As I sang at the Opry, I thought there are so many greats that have passed through here. It was a proud moment and an honor,” she said.
Bagwell went on to perform in Myrtle Beach for a year before returning to Dollywood and then at the Southern Nights Theater. After Southern Nights closed, Bagwell performed both sacred and secular songs for four-and-a-half years at the American Music Theater in Lancaster, Pa., until she got a cyst on her vocal cords and had to leave.
“It is amazing how God works,” she said. “I loved Pennsylvania. I would never have left if I had not had medical problems. God worked it out where I was able to be with my father, who became sick with both prostate and mesothelioma cancer, and I was able to be with him until he died on Feb. 2, 2011. The cyst on my vocal cords was the Lord’s way to get me back to Tennessee to be with my Dad.”
Bagwell’s vocal cords healed, and she is indeed back in Tennessee performing nine shows a week at “Christmas at The Smoky Mountain Opry.”
“I hope people will come to our show and forget about the collapsing economy and the storms and just come and be entertained for a couple of hours,” Bagwell said.
“The show is awesome, authentic, superb, breathtaking, sweet, fun, hysterical and people just feel good when they walk out and they think ‘Joy to the World.’ It is a joy to be here.”
“Christmas at The Smoky Mountain Opry” will continue until Dec. 31. The show is performed at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and at 8 p.m. nightly. Tickets for the Christmas show are $39.95, plus tax each and children 11 and under are $19.95 plus tax.
The theater is located at Traffic Light 0 in Pigeon Forge. For more information call the theater’s box office (865) 428-7469 or 1-800-768-1170 or visit http://www.SmokyMtnOpry.com.
The “Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry” wraps at the end of the year with a special New Year’s Eve Show on Dec. 31. The theater will then go back to the regular show on Jan. 1 featuring Broadway, 50’s, 60’s, rock ‘n roll, bluegrass, gospel and country music and will be open year round.
The Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment Group, one of the largest show production companies in the southeast, also owns and produces three other major shows in the Smoky Mountain area, “The Comedy Barn®,” the “Hatfield and McCoy Dinner and Show” and “The Country Jamboree Breakfast Show” featuring the Blackwoods.
The Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment Group is running a special combination show deal that offers customers a chance to buy a ticket to the Smoky Mountain Opry Show. For $20 more, they can purchase a ticket to “The Comedy Barn®” or the “Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show.” Customers are also offered the opportunity to buy a ticket to the Opry Show and get a ticket to the Country Jamboree Breakfast Show for half price.
The company also owns Tony Roma’s and Happy Days restaurants and a website, seepigeonforge.com, that helps guests plan their entire Smoky Mountain experience online.
Deborah Fee Newsom