BWW Review: ALWAYS . . . PATSY CLINE at Virginia Rep At Hanover Tavern Delights Even with a Sub in the Title Role
A friend let me know that Thursday's performance of "Always. . .Patsy Cline" had been canceled due to the illness of its star, Debra Wagoner. Wagoner played the crossover hit maker for Virginia Rep in 2012, and for the Ohio Shakespeare Festival in 2006. I feared there would be a cancellation Friday night as well.
But-who knew?-there is a deep bench of Cline-channeling talent in Richmond. Shannon Gibson Brown has been playing the beloved singer for years, too-for Henrico Theatre Company in this same piece and at Fort Lee Playhouse in a different musical, "A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline," as well as in her own Cline tribute show. And she filled in for Wagoner on Friday night for an enraptured audience.
"Always. . .Patsy Cline" is Ted Swindley's take on Cline's story, based on the star's actual relationship with a fan, Louise Seger. The musical interweaves performances of Cline's hits (backed by an excellent five-piece band) with humorous and sometimes touching vignettes of Seger meeting and befriending Cline. Terri Moore reprises her role as the irrepressible Seger, a brash Texas single mom who falls for Cline's music when she hears Cline on Arthur Godfrey's show.
There's a long list of songs-maybe a tad too long-including "Back in Baby's Arms," "I Fall to Pieces," and all-time favorite "Crazy" (that last one written by Willie Nelson). Styles vary from Western swing to rockabilly to country (like Hank Williams, Sr.'s "Your Cheatin' Heart"). Cline's versatility shows on Neil Sedaka's pop hit "Stupid Cupid" and the Cole Porter ballad "True Love."
Brown's rich alto is smooth as satin, and she performs the songs beautifully. Moore's comic zest keeps the story from getting too sappy. But Cline's story is a sad one, because it was too short-she died in a plane crash at age 30.
Joe Pabst repeats as director of the show, and his practiced hand keeps things lively and engaging. Jeff Lindquist's musical direction is good and Derek Dumais's sound design is perfect. Terrie Powers 's fine set gives a good amount of performance space to the singer and the band and features a small turntable area containing Louise's kitchen and other locations. Skyler Broughman's lighting is excellent.
No holiday theme here, just a proven crowd-pleaser that will light up your winter with music and laughter.
"Always. . .Patsy Cline"
Virginia Rep at Hanover Tavern, 13181 Hanover Courthouse Rd., Hanover
Through January 5
Tickets $44 (group rates available)
Info: va-rep.org or (804)262-2820
Photo credit: Aaron Sutten