With all of the offerings over the next two weeks, it takes something special to be a true blockbuster, particularly if its a show Piccolo audiences have seen again (and again, and again, and again). For Always … Patsy Cline, that something special is magic and dependability.
The show, which easily sold out its premiere Saturday, is based on the true story of Cline’s biggest fan, Louise, and the close friendship the two women shared in the last years before the country music legend’s death in 1963. Louise narrates much of the story from her kitchen table as she remembers listening to Patsy Cline performing on TV and the radio before she meets her at a local bar. Most of the show’s 22 songs are presented as Patsy Cline putting on a show right there in the Footlight.
It’d seem hokey, if it wasn’t for Lindsay Welch’s spot-on Patsy Cline rendition. To say that she sounds like Cline doesn’t do justice to the transformative force Welch delivers in every note. Director Sheri Grace Wenger might have been able to find someone else who could sing like Patsy Cline, but Welch brings a full-body performance that captivates from the first note of â€œHonky Tonk Merry Go Round. Her playful interaction with the band also gives the show a more-than-just-a-crooner feel.
Having a first class songbook doesn’t hurt either. As the band strikes up If You’ve Got Leavin’ On Your Mind and Sweet Dreams, the audience gives a spontaneous applause as if they were at a real concert, hearing that tune they’d been waiting for. Welch and the band, The Beaudacious Bobcats Band, also give good on classics like I Fall to Pieces and Crazy, along with other Cline hits that may have cycled out of country music jukeboxes, like It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels and Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray.
Susie Hallatt’s performance as Louise is another that audiences will be remembering. The character is well-written by playwright Ted Swindley, but Hallatt proves to be quick on her feet and able and willing to bend a line here or there if it’ll pull a bigger laugh from the audience.
Its first Piccolo performance was at the Footlight Players Theatre in 1992. It’s been back several times at a number of venues, but returned home to roost for its 2008 run and they couldn’t have asked for a better location.
In the 2005 run, the show utilized the deep stage of the Charleston Music Hall well so much so that audiences likely had no idea what they were missing. But there’s something about the smaller, more intimate Footlight that gives the show a more personal touch. It’s the difference between watching grainy old clips of Patsy Cline and actually being at the bar, watching Cline warble through a performance.
Always … Patsy Cline â€¢ Piccolo Musical Theater â€¢ May 25 at 5:30 p.m.; May 26 at 2 p.m., May 28 at 6:30 p.m., May 30 at 8:30 p.m., June 5 at 8 p.m., June 6 at 6 p.m., June 7 at 2:30 p.m., and June 8 at 4 p.m. â€¢ $27-$29 â€¢ Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. â€¢(888) 274-3656