By Ted Swindley
Directed by Brian Russell
At the Theatre at the Center, Munster, IN
Tuneful, heartwarming Patsy Cline songfest is so country!
Rather than simply being a Patsy Cline revue, Ted Swindley framed the Cline songbook with a heartwarming story about how the country & western singer meet a female fan in Huston at a Texas honky-tonk. Cline was more than one of the first female country stars, she was an inspiration to the future females to grace The Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville. From 1957 to 1963, Patsy recorded many hit tunes ranging from honky-tonk tunes to haunting ballads and emotionally deep bluesy songs. Her rich tone, emotionally expressive and bold contralto voice produced memorable songs such as “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Piece,” and “Crazy”-one of the most played recordings of all-time. She is considered to be one of the most influential, successful, and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century.
It is amazing how much Heather Beck both looks like and sounds like Patsy Cline! She has her style and vocal intonations down pat, almost channeling the star 49 years after her death at age 30 in 1963. The test of how well one plays patsy is how they render Wille Nelson’s “Crazy,” Heather Beck sure nailed the haunting torch song!
Always…Patsy Cline has a true story basis in an incident that found super-fan Louise Seger (the terrific Janelle Snow) introducing herself to Patsy in 1961 at a Huston honky-tonk. The two women instantly became friends and confidants. Patsy ended up staying the night at Louise’s house after eating homemade bacon and eggs. The two keep corresponding by letter (hence signature: “Always…Patsy Cline”) until Cline’s death in a plane crash in 1963.
The show featured a five piece country band complete with fiddle and steel guitar led by William A. Underwood. The show features the Cline songbook including 27 of her songs! it is an early country music delight that found many of the audience humming or sing along with Beck. That was both a tribute to Patsy Cline’s popularity after 50 years and an irritant since i didn’t go to Munster, IN to hear common folks sing Cline material. But Janelle Snow’s honest, down-home style and her comic chops addition a human touch to the Cline song fest. So go to see Always…Patsy Cline to hear the memorable songs and you’ll discover a heartfelt story that will lift your spirits. Patsy was country before country was cool and she led they way for all the great female country singers to come. he music live on…enjoy!
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 26, 2012
At the Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, call 219-836-3255, www.theatreatthecenter.com, tickets $38 -$42, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 2 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30pm, select Thursday evening and Saturday matinees, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through April 1, 2012