BWW Review: ALWAYS, PATSY CLINE at Georgetown Palace Theatre Leaves You Humming All The Way Home
As I hear it, The Palace in Georgetown was due to produce Grease in the spot where LOVE ALWAYS, PATSY CLINE resides now. All I'll say about that is, thank goodness it worked out this way! This production is adorable and entertaining from start to finish. I smiled through most of the show, and even leaned into the fairly loose premise. Story line is not the intent of most jukebox musicals, but this one fared relatively well in the hands of its Director/Musical Director/Conductor/Bassist Lannie Hiboldt. Lannie also did the set design. Generally, this could be seen as overextending one's self, but it Lannie's case, it worked out nicely.
ALWAYS PATSY CLINE takes place at the Grand Ole Opry, The Arthur Godfrey Show, The Esquire Ballroom and Houston radio station KiKK via Louise's kitchen along about 1957-63. Patsy's real life friend Louise Seger (Linda Bradshaw) narrates this charming story. Bradshaw successfully plays Louise as that older, good natured, Texas "everywoman" who's had her share of rough knocks and comes out the better for them. She falls in love with Patsy Cline's voice when she happens to over hear her on the Arthur Godfrey show. Louise then sets herself and the audience on a path down memory lane that includes all of the songs made famous by the incomparable Patsy Cline. When Louise finally manages to meet Patsy (Yesenia McNett) playing at a Texas honky tonk, they become fast friends despite the distance Patsy's schedule constantly puts between them from thereafter.
Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits is certified diamond for sales exceeding ten million. It continues to be one of the best selling country albums by a female artist of all time, It's in the Guinness Book of World Records, and even I have a copy of it, despite my otherwise averse reaction to country music in general. Patsy was the first solo woman artist to be inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame. These are the feats Yesenia McNett faces when she plays Patsy Cline, and she does so with grace and charm and musical perfection. This is not the first time McNett has played the role at The Palace or elsewhere. She's played the role in many theatres across Texas and California. She's a marvelous impersonator, but don't let that fool you, Yesenia also brings a quiet humility and innocence to the role with nary a saccharine tone. This is a feat accomplished by only the most adept actor.
Since McNett does almost all of the singing, and gets almost all of the spotlight in her role as Patsy, one would think Louise could be played pretty much by anyone who was adequate enough to deliver a line convincingly. Thankfully, Linda Bradshaw does this and more. While she plays the storyteller, Louise also serves as a critical part of our ability to be happily entertained. She must convey the enthusiasm of and perform as a sort of emcee in this jukebox musical. The script is obviously contrived in places, cheesy even, and Bradshaw walks the line so well that only the most cynical and bitter among us would fault her or the script.
It appears that director Hiboldt has smartly cast this production and fine tuned the already great work of some talented actors. He serves as the Musical Director, bassist in the band and conducts it as well, so he's pretty busy in this production. The rest of the band, onstage for the whole show, are terrific, and they never appear overly tasked. That the drums were a little too loud, and the occasional light bleed that occurred onstage before it was dark outside, are the best I can do to fault this production. Hiboldt is also the set designer, and the no nonsense Grand Ol Opry backdrop interspersed with projection is straight forward and just right.
As a third generation Texan, this production brought forth the imaginings I have about what my parents and grandparents watched and listened to, what they might have done on a date, and what it might have felt like to hear of such a tragic end as Patsy's in a time that so many of us romanticize. It's a bittersweet ending, but the script doesn't leave us there, as Louise makes sure we get an encore out of Patsy that keeps us humming all the way home. The audience on the night I attended weren't altogether as rowdy and outgoing as I would have enjoyed for this show, but I think they had a great time. I sure did.
LOVE ALWAYS, PATSY CLINE
August 18th - September 17th. Friday - Saturday 7:30 pm. Sunday 2:00 pm.
The Georgetown Palace Theatre
810 South Austin Ave, Georgetown TX 78626
Tickets $14-$30 Group, senior and student discounts available
Running time 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission
Photo Credit: Andy Sharp