Well, hello! It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a show, and a lot has changed during this intense past year (including my last name!). With things beginning to return to a pseudo-normal, I’ve kept an eye out for the return of live theater, and jumped at the chance to review Creative Cauldron’s Always…Patsy Cline. My mother’s side of the family is distantly related to Patsy, and because of that, she has always piqued our interest.
Created by Ted Swindley, the show is inspired by the true story of a unique friendship between Cline and a Houston-based fan. Matt Conner directs this production alongside a live orchestra, with Erin Granfield playing the role of superfan Louise Seger, and a quartet of actresses sharing the role of Patsy throughout the run.
The production is set outdoors, on the lawn of Cherry Hill Park next to Falls Church Community Center. There are pros and cons to this situation, the biggest issue being having to share the space with a nearby basketball court, parking lot, and busy road, and all the noises that come with this environment. The singers are also performing alongside the cicadas, who prove to have strong vocals themselves (speaking of cicadas, bringing your own lawn chair is a must! My mother and I were among the very few who thought a mere blanket to sit on would suffice, and a lot of our time was spent redirecting bugs as they crawled into our laps). Musical director Refiye Tapman drowns out this outside noise with a five-piece orchestra, including Robbie Taylor on electric guitar, Jason Labrador on fiddle, and Jim Hofmann on drums. They do a fantastic job, and if you’re a fan of live music in general, this show is a great choice.
Always…Patsy Cline is a perfect production for an intimate setting; there are only two characters, and the premise is simple: Louise shares memories of her friendship with Patsy directly to the audience from her own kitchen table. Erin Granfield is a real kick as Louise, a fiery, vibrant woman whose presence cannot be denied. She falls in love with Patsy Cline’s music early on in her career, and when Patsy comes to sing in her town, Louise can barely handle her excitement. She arrives hours early for the show and comes face-to-face with Patsy herself, who is carefully surveying the venue in preparation. The two have an immediate connection, despite having vastly different personas. Patsy is graceful, stoic, and even a bit intimidating, while Louise bounces around the stage like a firecracker. They get along so well that Patsy ends up at Louise’s home where they talk into the early hours.
The evolution of their friendship, while touching and entertaining in its own right, is really a lens through which we are treated to a revue of Patsy’s catalog. Sally Imbriano played Patsy at my performance, and her stunning vocals alone are worth the price of admission. My personal favorites included “Back in Baby’s Arms” and “I Fall to Pieces,” alongside the well-known classics “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Crazy.” In total, she sings 19 titles, an impressive number of songs given the runtime. Her performances are warm, engaging, and memorable. In a particularly fun element of the show, we see her career evolve through her many wardrobe changes, with each outfit being a bit more refined than the last. These numbers are woven into the narrative seamlessly, with an ease that flows as naturally as the ladies’ friendship.
Creative Cauldron‘s Always…Patsy Cline is a great choice for people who are looking to reenter society after a long and stressful year. It’s not too long, the story is straightforward, and the performances are heady and sweet, with just the right amount of humor. It is the difference between sinking into a warm bath versus being pushed into a cold pool. Welcome back!
Running Time: About 90 minutes, without an intermission.
Always…Patsy Cline runs through June 20, 2021, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:00 pm, in Cherry Hill Park, 312 Park Ave, Falls Church, VA. Tickets are $35 and available online. Parking is free in the community center lot. Social distancing protocols in place, vaccination and/or masking required. In the event of weather cancellation, the show will be rescheduled.