Director Michael Ross’ self-proclaimed “love letter to the theater community,” Always…Patsy Cline is based on the true story of Patsy Cline’s relationship with Louise Seger, a fan who became Patsy’s friend and with whom Patsy maintained a close correspondence until Cline’s untimely passing, at age 30, in a plane crash. The show runs at Sonoma Arts Live through December 18.
ASR contributors Sue Morgan and Cari Lynn Pace comment below:
CLP: SAL captures the spirit and voice of Patsy Cline by casting Danielle DeBow as the young American star of country music. DeBow has the stunning looks and the honeyed earthy voice that vaulted Cline to the top of the charts in the late 50s and early 60s. DeBow even captures the famous sad catch in Cline’s voice, so wonderfully evocaive in her hits “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
SM: Reprising their roles in SAL’s second production of the play, both Danielle DeBow (Patsy) and Karen Pinomaki (Louise) create the magic necessary to bring the audience back to mid-century America when Cline’s astonishingly numerous hits were pervasive on radio and TV, not merely for country music fans but for many others across the nation. You’ll find most of those hits faithful to the originals and beautifully performed by DeBow in this production.
… It’s an enjoyable – and laughable – tribute…
CLP: Who knows how far Cline might have gone had she not tragically died in that airplane crash before she was even 30 years old?
SM: DeBow is not only a world-class singer but also drop-dead gorgeous. Michael Ross has an impeccable eye for costuming and uses her beauty to great advantage. DeBow first appears as Patsy onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, wearing an accurate recreation of Cline’s iconic red-fringed cowgirl dress. Ross then adorns DeBow in an array of period-perfect and stunning confections which enhance and contribute to the overall appeal of the production.
CLP: The thin plot is based on the true story of Louise, Cline’s enthusiastic fan, and the friendship that developed between them. It‘s an amusing and heartfelt retelling, narrated by Pinomaki and based on letters the two women shared over several years. Pinomaki is an outrageous force of energy on stage, delightfully down-to-earth as she cavorts around the entire theater. She’s the perfect fearless foil against the cool smooth presence of DeBow.
SM: Pinomaki’s high-octane performance is both energizing and engaging, frequently eliciting appreciative laughter. Use of a thrust stage (the audience on three sides) works well to create a sense of intimacy as we observe Louise puttering in her kitchen, calling her local radio DJ to request her favorite Cline songs, or narrating and enacting the story of how she came to befriend her musical idol.
DeBow’s magnificent voice and stage presence, as well as the warmth and easy authenticity in her interactions with superfan Louise make her a wholly believable Patsy.
CLP: The six-piece band onstage is pure country, complete with pedal steel guitar and fiddle. At some moments the piano overwhelmed the vocals. Those unfamiliar with the songs may not grasp some of the poignant stories told in the lyrics. This reviewer, who has excellent hearing and sat in the second row, just went with the flow of the music.
Many of DeBow’s vocals are backed up by the harmony quartet of Sean O’Brien, Jonathen Blue, Steve Cairns, and Alexi Ryan, as the Jordanaires. They lend an authenticity to Cline’s original songs that is country-fine fun.
SM: The Jordanaires do a fine job as backup singers for Patsy, including a somber lament after her passing. The band was tight and on point and drummer Elizabeth Robertson collaborated well with Louise during a staged bit on tempo.
SM: Despite the tragedy of Cline’s early demise, Always… Patsy Cline does not devolve into melodrama, but maintains its focus on the friendship of two women of vastly different circumstances, brought together serendipitously and steadfastly connected through mutual affection and appreciation.
CLP: It’s no mere jukebox musical. It’s an enjoyable – and laughable – tribute from an energetic housewife to a budding superstar. Two down-home gals who once bonded and became friends … always.
SM: This production will make believers of those unfamiliar with Ms. Cline’s music and will renew the enthusiasm of long-term fans through its outstanding combination of theatricality, virtuoso musical performances, gorgeous costuming and heart-warming true-life subject matter. An exhilarating, riveting, joyful piece of musical theatre!
ASR Writer & Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a voting member of SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Always, Patsy Cline
|Sonoma Arts Live
|Thursdays thru Sundays until Dec. 18, 2022
|Rotary Stage: Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center
276 E. Napa Street, Sonoma
|$25 – $42
|Max in each category is 5/5
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?