Anyone who has ever felt any heartfelt connection to another can hear a legendary Patsy Cline song and say “Oh yes, been there, seen, done that.” The lyrics are about much more than trucks, beer or bygone dogs. Her tunes depict those special times in life – looking back, looking forward, or being ‘in the moment’ that all can relate to and understand, no matter what musical genre is preferred. These melodies are written and performed to pluck at the heartstrings, evoking scenes from an individual’s own experiences.
In Always… Patsy Cline, Jenny Lee Stern brings Patsy’s greatest hits to the stage, live, making you feel like you’re watching the real Patsy at a nightclub – or even the Grand Ole Opry House. Musical numbers such as “Crazy,” “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” her first hit “Walkin’ After Midnight,” and the tender, moving “If I Could See the World” are faithfully rendered and lovingly performed to the obvious delight of the audience. Thanks to Stern and a terrific band of musicians, featuring Ben Kapilow (Music Director/keyboard), Spiff Wiengad (fiddle/steel guitar/electric guitar), Lee Morrison (drums), and Nate Clapinson (bass), you will want to move, tap and clap – and at various times, the audience is invited to do just that!
But Always… Patsy Cline, directed by Patrick Ward, is more than just a series of marvelous tribute numbers. It is also a retrospective story, written by Ted Swindley, about Patsy the person, as well as the performer. The show’s title is distilled from the closing signature, “Love ALWAYS… Patsy Cline” on actual letters the singer had written to her real life friend, a Houston gal named Louise Seger. Louise is portrayed with enthusiasm, and plenty of pluck, by WMGK radio personality Debbi Calton for the June 15th to June 18th shows. She gives the show a monumental element of fun! In later performances, Fox 29 TV’s Sue Serio will play Louise (June 22-June 25), followed by noted actress Susan Wefel (June 29), and finally QVC’s Jane Treacy (June 30-July 2). Between song sets, Louise reminisces about her times with Patsy, with some of their encounters being reenacted, which keeps things interesting. The production does not lag, but as staged, remains exciting.
When Patsy Cline emerged on the music scene in the 1950s, she created a whole new style by blending sophisticated, jazzy phrasing with country, rockabilly and blues. Stern lives up to that standard, and she truly evokes Cline, both in her mannerisms and in her powerful, compelling voice. For those who are not familiar with Cline or the aforementioned musical genres, the performances are nevertheless highly enjoyable, and even transportive.
Katie Yamaguchi’s costuming is spot-on, and Stern’s numerous outfits throughout the show are spectacular. Stern gets to wear sequined boots; glamorous, glittering evening dresses; and so much more! Ward’s superb staging is enhanced by the fine set, lighting and projection design, which establish locales and mood effectively. (Unfortunately, the program does not credit the designers for these elements.)
Always… Patsy Cline is an altogether fabulously entertaining, informative event, and the lovely historic Media Theatre is a wonderfully fitting venue in which to experience it!
Running Time: Two hours, with one 15 minute intermission.