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Director Lisa K. Bryant has chosen a musical winner to kick off Flat Rock Playhouse’s 2015 MainStage series. Ted Swindley’s Always…Patsy Cline is not only a tribute to this incomparable musical icon, but a touching exploration of the friendship Patsy actually formed with one of her adoring fans. Jacqueline Petroccia stars as Patsy, with Linda Edwards as Louise, in a show that brims with love and laughter while presenting a nostalgic look back at a pivotal moment in time.
The show’s success hinges on the quality of its music, and Petroccia was deeply impressive as a “Cline-alike” singer. Her stylings were spot-on, with characteristic scoops, slides, a bit of yodeling, and seizure of key words — even the timbre of her voice in its various registers recalled Cline’s own. With 27 songs to perform, Petroccia’s energy and focus never flagged. Highlights for this listener were “I Fall To Pieces” (oh, that difficult opening low note!), “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Crazy.” Even the silliness of the lyrics to such songs as “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” was forgiven by the beauty of their performance.
Backing her up was an equally impressive six-man band (onstage) under the direction of pianist Alex Shields. Other members of the band were Casey Cramer, lead guitar; Bill Alman, lap steel guitar; Ryan Guerra, rhythm guitar and fiddle; Paul Babelay, drums; and Sam Sherwood, bass. Sound Designer Kurt Conway achieved just the right balance between singer and band so that all of her words could be clearly heard.
The supporting role of star-struck fan Louise Seger, a Texas housewife who met Cline and corresponded with her over several years, is that of narrator as well as real-time devotee and friend to Cline. She also sings with the star a few times. Linda Edwards has actually sung the role of Cline in other productions of this show, and proved she also is a formidable singer. She has a big presence, especially in the first act as she recalled the circumstances of her first face-to-face encounter with Cline at a show, and she certainly succeeded in conveying her undying, heartfelt connection to Cline’s music. The chemistry that developed onstage between these two women was one of the show’s highlights.
The minimal set design by Dennis C. Maulden provided just enough props to suggest a kitchen, a Grand Ole’ Opry stage, a studio scenario, or a club setting with some audience members placed onstage at either side. The costumes by Ashli Arnold were simply gorgeous, in themselves evocative of so much history. The show left me with an urge to call up all the old tunes, and like so many members of this audience, to sing along and simply let go.
Always…Patsy Cline continues through Sunday, May 31. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.