BWW Reviews: Sierra Madre Playhouse Goes CRAZY for Patsy Cline
Popular across the country for many years, Always Patsy Cline celebrates country/pop singing superstar Patsy Cline, her music and her warm down.to.earth persona. Endearing from the get go, the show's success depends on the right casting. Its two actresses must be perfect fits for their roles. Louise Seger is a diehard fan of Patsy Cline. She's all Texan, has an exuberant personality and is over.the.top humorous, and of course, Patsy is Patsy. The actress playing her must look pretty and just right in those curly black wigs, and most urgently be able to duplicate Cline's unique vocal stylings. Well, the Sierra Madre Playhouse and director Robert Marra have hit the jackpot with its two leading ladies, Nikki D'Amico as Louise and Cori Cable Kidder as Cline. With the overabundant charm exuded by both stars and backed by a superb five-piece combo that includes terrific musical director Sean Paxton at the piano, Always... Patsy Cline should take audiences over the rainbow, through September 12.
When I was a kid growing up in Massachusetts I saw the Arthur Godfrey Show on TV and was, like Louise in the play, overwhelmed by the voice and presence of Patsy Cline. Once you saw and heard her, you never forgot her. She was that one.of.a.kind singing sensation that you could sit and listen to all night and again all day, on the radio or victrola. She didn't just sing, but something happened when she spoke the lyrics and told the story; the song transformed into something poetic, a little love letter from her to you. Never professionally trained or versatile in reading music, Patsy sang from the heart. Sadly, her light dimmed much too soon. After only 6 years from 1957 to 1963, she died in a plane crash and left all of us clinging to her records as the vestiges of her soul ... the music that would never die.
Ted Swindley's play with 27 songs is a testament to the power of Cline through her voice and magnificent presence. It takes an actress/singer of tremendous vitality and skill to play her. Kidder is a very special person, tall, beautiful and possessing great vocal power and lots of heart. When you close your eyes, except for a couple of minor switches in inflections, you would swear you were listening to Cline. "Back in Baby's Arms", "Walkin' After Midnight", "I Fall to Pieces", "Sweet Dreams", "Crazy" "Your Cheatin' Heart", "Honky Tonk Angels", and the beautiful "If I Could See the World Through the Eyes of a Child" by Sammy Masters and Richard Pope; they are all here vibrant and alive and full of the spark and understanding of love that was Patsy Cline.
And then there's Louise Seger who narrates the play and presents the vision that many of us already know or feel about Patsy, but we want to hear it again and again.. D'Amico is just scrumptious and devilishly funny... that tell it like it is next door neighbor that you always treasured and loved, that you could tell your troubles to and count on as a a confidante. She has a Carol Burnett look and quality to her delivery, which is consistently a hoot...and terribly sincere.
There are over the top moments built into the script, like when Seger pretends to conduct the band. She's up on the bandstand as an excuse to keep the drummer in line, at Patsy's request, so he does not overpower her vocal control. In these moments it almost seems like she's upstaging Cline as she sings, but, when all is said and done, it's all in the game, all part of the entertainment and we accept it lovingly. Musical director Paxton has some fun reacting moments as well as the spirited DJ.
This is based on a true story and it is no wonder that Patsy instantly befriended Louise, and Louise, Patsy. Their genuine wholesome qualities serve as magnets. Always Patsy Cline is a letter of love to the music and humanity of Miss Patsy Cline and for those that truly loved her... and that includes just about the whole world.
Congrats to director Marra for his slick and even staging and perfect pacing throughout, to John Vertrees for a nifty set that displays Louise's kitchen, the bar where Patsy Cline performed in Houston, and the bandstand. A. Jeffrey Schoenberg is to be credited highly for his excellent costumes, particularly the lovely dresses for Kidder. Praise as well for the terrific lobby displays of moments from Cline's life in words and pictures and also with several Decca 45s of her hits adorning the walls.
Go, go, go to Sierra Madre and enjoy Always...Patsy Cline. It is perfect summer entertainment.