BWW Review: ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE at Westchester Broadway Theatre
Always...Patsy Cline made its debut at Westchester Broadway Theatre last week and will play until February 28th. This jukebox type of musical tells the story of Patsy Cline's poignant relationship in the early stages of her career with a devoted fan by the name of Louise Seger. The show, which originated Off-Broadway in 1997, is staged lovingly by Amiee Turner, reuniting with Erin McCracken from their previous production of Always...Patsy Cline at the Ocean State Theater. Ms. McCracken plays the role of Patsy Cline again, and it fits nicely within Westchester Broadway Theatre's intimate space. The interaction between the two ladies can play front and center, plus combined with the fantastic Bodacious Bobcat Band, the interaction is natural and playful.
Starring Erin McCracken as Patsy Cline and Susann Fletcher as Louise Seger, the heart of the story is reminisced by Louise's first exposure to Patsy Cline from watching the Arthur Godfry show, to her managerial and motherly affection of her. The band never leaves the stage, and with expert musical accompanying, arranged by Ken Lundie, the band becomes part of the story.
The biggest testament to how enjoyable this musical is has to be my 11 year old son's reaction to it. He was completely engaged the whole time and bopped along with such classics as "Back in Baby's Arms" and "Blue
Moon of Kentucky." Of course, favorites such as "Crazy" and "I Fall to Pieces" were interpolated into the story, but the obscure songs like "Stupid, Cupid," which I did not realize she covered, made for a real musical treat. I was not aware that Patsy Cline recorded "True Love" by Cole Porter, but it fit in perfectly with the rest of the score.
It certainly helped that Erin McCracken sounded like Patsy Cline, complete with her trademark "catch" in her throat. She had a full sound in her middle voice and is able to transition to her high notes effortlessly. It also helps that she is outfitted in period appropriate clothing of the 50's and 60's, with flourish by Heidi Giarlo, complete with cowgirl boots and other western attire.
Susann Fletcher brought the comic relief and poignancy to the story as Louise. At times, I forgot she was an actress playing a role, for she is that convincing. Her ad-libs were spot on and she had enormous energy on the stage. It was especially entertaining when she came to the audience, complete with sass and interactive one liners. At our performance, George Puello, Westchester's favorite director, was picked to dance with her. Ultimately, she did not just play the role for laughs, and the dramatic moments were quite moving.
Always...Patsy Cline does not shy away from topics such as divorce, drinking and Patsy Cline's death, and clearly shows that Louise Seger and Patsy Cline are not so different. Patsy Cline needed Louise just as much as Louise needed and idolized her. Watching Louise take charge of Patsy's career and life in parts of the story were quite powerful.
The set design, by Steve Loftus, displayed posters and signs of the times with raised panels to highlight when Patsy Cline performed. The lighting design, by Andrew Gmoser, dramatically highlighted the story, without being too showy. The sound design by Jonathan Hatton & Mark Zuckerman nicely balanced the vocals and band, so the diction and musical buildups could be heard effortlessly and clearly.
Always...Patsy Cline is an uplifting, musically accomplished experience that fits very nicely in Westchester Broadway Theatre's repertory. If you like the music of the aforementioned era, and have nostalgic feelings, this show will certainly be a most welcome trip down memory lane.
The show runs February 4 - 28, 2016. Reservations: Call 914-592-2222. Also: www.BroadwayTheatre.com.