BWW Reviews: Ocean State Theatre Kicks Off Summer with Pitch-Perfect ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE
Summer is the time when theatrical offerings often turn to lighter fare. Smaller, more serious dramas and tragedies give way to big, boisterous musicals filled with colors and costumes and eye-popping spectacle. Of course, there are countless toe-tapping show tunes to go along with all the family-friendly fun and frivolity. This summer, there is no better way to kick off your summer theater viewing than a stop in Warwick for Ocean State Theatre Company's production of Always...Patsy Cline.
Created and originally directed by Ted Swindley, the show is simple and straightforward, just like so many great country music songs. The focus is on one of the great legends of country music, Patsy Cline, and one of her greatest fans, a Houston resident named Louise Seger. This true story follows Louise's love of Patsy Cline's music from its very beginning to the moment when the two women met in person when Cline arrived in Houston to perform a concert. Their meeting led to a very real friendship and the two were pen pals up until Cline died in a plane crash in 1963.
Ocean State's production is directed by Producing Artistic Director Amiee Turner, who keeps things light, fun and breezy the whole way through. That's not to say that care and attention wasn't paid to every detail, it surely was. But every moment is filled with a certain lightness, an undeniable touch of joy and fun. It seems that not only are the actors and musicians having a great time performing the show on stage, but Turner and her creative team must have had a great time crafting such a joyous musical production.
Speaking of joy, that is the feeling one experiences while watching Lulu Lloyd play the ultimate superfan, Louise Seger. She truly creates one of the most lovable and endearing characters you will likely every see on stage. Lloyd employs an impressive comedic toolbox, from her long, lanky arms and legs, which she uses to perfect comedic effect, to an absolutely spot-on comic delivery of very funny lines and sight gags. While the character of Louise is living in the 1960s, it's easy to relate to her and picture her in today's world, telling everyone about Patsy Cline through all of our modern day social media outlets. That universal human quality in Louise is another reason why Lloyd's performance is so great.
Equally great is Erin McCracken as the titular country music legend, Patsy Cline. McCracken has a silky smooth, gorgeous voice. She may not always sound exactly like Cline did in real life, but she absolutely nails Cline's vocal style, her twang and accent and the way she sang certain lyrics. McCracken also demonstrates an ability to handle any song that's thrown her way, both in the singing and truthfully living the song, whether it's heartbreakers like "Crazy" or toe-tappers like "Stupid Cupid." She impresses at every opportunity, including the quieter moments focused more on acting rather than singing. While in some productions, one of these two characters might outshine or overshadow the other, McCracken and Lloyd are a perfect team, as fantastic individually as they are in their moments together.
Mention must also be made of the fabulous band playing behind Patsy and Louise. Known as the Bodacious Bobcats Band, they are onstage the entire show, backing up all of the well-known tunes, knocking every one out of the park. It's especially fun to see the pedal steel, an instrument you don't get to hear or watch every day, at least not around here. Getting to see a show this fun and entertaining, and well put together by all involved, is also something you don't get to do every day, so take full advantage. As an audience member sitting nearby said at one point during the show, "It doesn't get any better than this."
Always...Patsy Cline runs through June 22 at Ocean State Theatre Company, located at 1245 Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick. Tickets are $39 for previews performances and $39 to $54 for all other performances. Tickets are on sale at the box office Monday through Friday from 12 noon to 6pm, Saturdays from 12 noon to 4pm and from 12 noon to curtain time on performance days. Tickets are also available online at www.oceanstatetheatre.org and via telephone during normal box office hours at 401-921-6800. Performances are on Wednesdays (except June 11), Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, with matinees on Thursday (except June 19), Saturdays (except June 7) and Sundays at 2pm.