BWW Reviews: Wonderful Revival of ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE by Stages St. Louis
Another welcome revival hits the local theatre scene with the Stages St. Louis production of Always..Patsy Cline at the The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. It's an excellent show, full of good humor and packed with a great collection of classic country tunes. It plays out as more than just your typical tribute show, because it actually has a story to tell to go along with its superb music. What really makes this show work are the performances by the cast and band, all of whom do absolutely impeccable work. And, what makes this revival a special sort of success is the sense of intimacy that the cozy confines of this venue provide. It really allows the actors to interact with the audience, and they take advantage of that to get up close and personal. I've said all this before, but this is must-see entertainment, and I can't recommend it highly enough!
The title, Always...Patsy Cline, comes from the way the singer would sign the correspondence she kept up with fast friend Louise Seger. Seger became an instant fan the first time she heard that distinctive, transcendental voice coming over the airwaves of her local radio station. The opportunity to attend a concert by her favorite artist at a honky-tonk resulted in a meeting that found the rising country star sleeping over at Louise's house before her flight out of town. Over the course of that evening the pair became surprisingly close, and a friendship was forged which lasted until the singer's untimely death in a plane crash a few years later.
Zoe Vonder Haar is a real pistol as Louise, whose a divorced woman raising two children on her own. Her infectious energy keeps the show moving along at a nice pace, she has wonderful comic timing, and her interplay with the audience is worth the price of admission. Her work with Jacqueline Petroccia as Patsy is what makes the story really come to life. Once Louise overcomes her initial sense of being completely star struck she winds up bonding with the country legend. Petroccia does an amazing job as Patsy, lovingly capturing Cline's signature style, as well as her powerful vocal chops. She also manages to ground the character in a way that makes her seem both folksy and real.
Along with the sharp performances of the lead characters, there's also an element that really makes this show cook, and that's the live band that accompanies them under the excellent musical direction of pianist Lisa Campbell Albert. Joining Albert is a crack band that brings these familiar arrangements to life. John Higgins (pedal steel), Jon Ferber (guitar), Kevin Buckley (fiddle), Vince Corkery (bass), and Don Drewett (drums) all do a great job and deserve recognition. There's even a fair amount of funny banter between Patsy, Louise, and the band.
Director Michael Hamilton does a fantastic job of making these strong performances shine, and it's a tribute to Hamilton and the show itself that it translates exceptionally well in such an intimate setting. The pared down, but marvelous scenic design of James Wolk works well with the lighting scheme of Matthew McCarthy. Lou Bird contributes the splendidly realized costumes that Petroccia frequently changes into as she moves between numbers.
Stages St. Louis put together a very memorable show when they opened last season with Always...Patsy Cline, and now you have the opportunity to relive this triumph. Even if you've seen it before, you owe it to yourself to go again. This production continues through June 22, 2014 at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza.