Always Patsy Cline hits almost all the right notes
Always Patsy Cline has become a staple in the regional and community theater world since the show’s 1988 debut. It works well in these venues as it is a cast of 2 and a band of 5 or so musicians. The set is primarily a bandstand with a few small mobile set pieces and minimal furniture making it an easy production for theaters to mount. Originally created by Ted Swindley, the show is based on the true story of Louise Seger, a fan, who struck up a friendship with Patsy when the performer came to Houston for an appearance. Their friendship began in earnest that evening at the show and continued until Cline’s death in a plane crash in 1963. They corresponded through letters and phone calls. The most recent incarnation is the production currently on the stage at the Fort Salem Theater through Sept.12.
Life is a series of positives and negatives. One hopes that in any event or occurrence as we travel life’s path, the positives outweigh the negatives. Patsy Cline is a wonderful example. She had an enormous amount of talent, a positive, she shared it with the world to great acclaim, another positive, two children, whom, by all accounts she adored, clearly a great positive, two tempestuous marriages, a negative and she died in a plane crash at the tender age of 30 at what would be the height of her career, clearly the biggest negative of all.
The Fort Salem production has its share of positives and negatives. Fortunately, the positives out number the negatives. Shannon Roy, is a native of Upstate, who learned to play the guitar and sing while in active duty in the army stationed in Afghanistan. Always… marks Roy’s theatrical debut. Her voice is powerful particularly with her rendition of Crazy for You, Your Cheating Heart, I Fall to Pieces and her encore finale with Louise, of Bill Bailey. She has a few weaker moments and at times when she sings her performance becomes a bit rote. With more seasoning on the the stage, she has the potential to blossom in to a wonderful musical theater performer.
Darlene Kelly as Louise is the star of this production. Her comic timing is spot on, she commands the stage and draws the audience attention by making it all seem so very natural. She leads us through the journey, breaking the 4th wall and using the audience as as her confidante, sharing the intimate details with us. The surprise of the evening is Kelly’s acapella rendition of How Great Thou Art. Kelly’s strong voice filled the theater into stunned silence.
Garrett West’s direction is relaxed and fluid. Again, Kelly is the greatest recipient of his directing largess. Marcia Wilcox costumes are well put together, and help to add to the feeling of the play moving Patsy from country western performer to glamorous star. The lighting is spotty at best, Louise often times speaks in the shadows and clearly looking for her light. The sound is muffled and over amplified, making it difficult at times to understand Roy when she delivers her dialogue. Carol Hawks musical direction has a tendency to over power the vocals with the strong performances by the band. That too may be due to an amplification issue.
So back to the positives and negatives. It is not a perfect production but if you are a country western fan, a Patsy Cline fan, or in the mood for what is a heartwarming story, Always Patsy Cline is a most enjoyable evening out. As an introduction to the Fort Salem Theater, this writer found it to be positive experience and certainly leaves the door open to look forward to see what the new owners have in store for their audiences down the road.
For more information go to www.fortsalem.com or call the box office at 518-854-9200.