I have a confession to make. I've never been a Patsy Cline fan. Hell, I've never been a country music fan. I'm a city slicker originally from the Los Angeles area where country radio stations don't exist anymore. I'm also a 28 year old middle class gay guy who prefers showtunes over songs about pick-up trucks. Clearly, I'm not country music's target demographic.
That said, Always...Patsy Cline, now playing at the Georgetown Palace Theatre, has made a fan out of me. This simple, understated production is a loving tribute and homage to one of the greatest singers of the last century. Whether you're a fan of Patsy Cline or not, you'll love her after seeing this production.
The show, written by Ted Swindley and featuring over 20 of Patsy's biggest hits, is really less of a story about the superstar and more of a story about Patsy's super-fan, Louise Seger and her friendship with Patsy. It is Louise who is our host, breaking the fourth wall to comment on Patsy, her songs, and how she feels connected to the music. Based on Patsy Cline's autobiography Honky Tonk Angel and drawing on real letters between Patsy and the real-life Louise Seger, the play feels incredibly authentic and real.
What truly makes the show so effective is its blissful simplicity. Lannes Hiboldt, the production's Director and Music Director, understands that the piece must be focused around the songs of Patsy Cline and the story of Louise's fandom. His staging is so effortless and effective. Almost all of Patsy's songs are staged front and center in front of a microphone, but Louise has plenty of freedom in her monologues with the audience. She interacts with them like a friend telling a story of their chance encounter with their idol. The simple-but-effective approach is echoed in the lighting by Dylan Rocamora, costumes by Tamar Madrigal, and set by Barb Jenigan. Nothing pulls focus from Patsy or Louise. This is their show.
Linda Bradshaw gives an outstanding performance as Louise. She carries herself as a confident, tell-it-like-it-is woman who may even be slightly rough around The Edges, but there's a heart and warmth about her too. She wants us to love Patsy just as much as she does, and with her enthusiasm and energy, she easily wins us over.
Ms. Bradsaw's counterpart, Yesenia McNett, is Patsy. When actors are asked to portray historical figures, one of two things usually happens. They either impersonate the character or they are the embodiment of that person for a few hours. I'm happy to say that Ms. McNett is the later. She is Patsy Cline down to the mannerisms, the bold, crystal clear quality of the voice, and the endearing, friendly smile. Through her, the show becomes not only a tribute to Patsy but a tribute to earlier country music, a time when people sang about more than just "Red Solo Cups" or "Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together," and her on-stage band (Nathan Campbell, T Jarrod Bonta, Bill Stephens, Herb Steiner, and David Reyes) are some of the best musicians Austin has to offer.
Always...Patsy Cline, like Patsy herself, is a down-to-earth, unpretentious, and completely engaging production. The fabulous Patsy Cline hits and the story of friendship shine through the material with ease. This is one production for any music fan, not just fans of Patsy Cline or country music.
So come on in and sit right down and make yourself at home.
Run time: 2 hours with one 15-20 minute intermission.
ALWAYS PATSY CLINE plays the Georgetown Palace Theatre at 810 S. Austin Ave, Georgetown now through November 25th. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are $24 for adults, $22 for seniors, $14 for active military and students (10-22), and $10 for children 9 & younger.
For tickets and information, call 512-869-7469 or go to www.georgetownpalace.com.