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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

"Always...Patsy Cline" Workshop Theatre

"Always...Patsy Cline"
Workshop Theatre
Pumphouse Theatre
May 6-10, 2014

Jane Tetley/Kerrie Hart: photo courtesy of Workshop Theatre
The Wednesday Morning "Before-Noon" Theatre Review:

Workshop Theatre's production
 of Ted Swindley's

 "Always...Patsy Cline"

I don't want to discourage anyone from reading the rest of today's review because of this spoiler alert but...I loved this production!

Unforgettable music, a heartwarming story, creative use of staging and live music plus solid performances made this adaptation of Ted Swindley's "Always...Patsy Cline" a real treat for the audience on opening night. 

Sure, there were a few hiccups as it was the premiere evening, but with only a few days in the run, I wanted to get a review out quickly, so that if people might be sitting on the fence,well - they ought to dust off their coveralls, polish up their cowboy boots, and sashay on in before this enjoyable show is over. 

Before the show, it dawned on me that although there are other Patsy Cline musicals, and countless tributes - I've never seen any of them. As a longtime fan, the closest I've come to her story was the theatrical release of the 1985 movie "Sweet Dreams", which prompted me to go directly out and pick up a copy of the soundtrack.

This play takes a whole other perspective of her life, allowing the audience to see the time-limited by fate true story of Cline and her chance friendship with a Houston housewife, going through much of what she was experiencing in her own personal life at the time. The bond remained afterwards through letters until Cline's death just a few years later. 

Oh, and then there's the songs - some 26 in all. Using the space of a creative set that alternated for a number of locales, Kerrie Hart brought those beloved hits to life with power, subtlety when necessary, and just the right amount to twang to immerse viewers convincingly in her portrayal of the country music star. 

As her newfound friend and erstwhile narrator, Jane Tetley was a gas as Louise, energetic and funny in the character. Down-home and plucky, talking directly to the audience as she guided the narrative along to the conclusion - which even though we know, is no less affecting by the time the play ends. 

Helping even more was the live band onstage (The Bodacious Bobcats - read the playbill for a smile with that one). They filling out the authenticity of the era with familiar riffs, as well as some fine background vocals without microphones, which were clear as a bell in the charming Pumphouse Theatre facility. Of my personal favourite highlights, it had to be the heartfelt songs sung A cappella - "If I Could See The World", and "Just A Closer Walk", for sure, but with the full band backing another standout was Cline's cover of Hank Williams' "Your Cheating Heart".   

First time director Cynthia Salter-Audy has certainly come out of the gate with a bang. This production moves along nicely, and the use of the space really brings everyone into the events as they unfold. I think it would be hard to find fault with the vision she has brought to life here.

If you're a fan of Patsy Cline, this show may introduce you to part of her history you might not have been aware of. Or you might just enjoy hearing that impressive songbook again, with a live band to boot. Call me "Crazy", but you just can't afford not to take in this winning production.

Check out Workshop Theatre for more info!

"Always...Patsy Cline" runs May 6-10, 2014



Workshop Theatre said...

Thank you for the review of "Always...Patsy Cline". We are so glad you could come out!

ThatDanGuy said...

Thanks, it was a real pleasure - still humming those darn songs :-)

Mrs That Dan Guy said...

Ah yes, this play was fantastic. It is a heart-warming story, one I had not known of before this play, and made you realize Patsy Cline was a woman doing what she loved to do, but not an easy road to walk. Connecting with another woman, becoming friends allowed Patsy to be herself. Even stars share the same challenges in life as any of us do. What a great play, loved, loved, loved it!

ThatDanGuy said...

A winner!