Nikki D'Amico | “She comes close to stealing the show!” — Sierra Madre Weekly
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“She comes close to stealing the show!” — Sierra Madre Weekly

You may have been one of Patsy Cline’s avid fans in the ‘60s, and indeed, you may still be. Or you may only recently have come to appreciate her rich, torchy melodies that continue to enchant audiences all these decades later. “Crazy” and “Walkin’ After Midnight” still send fans into swoons.

 

But no fan was more avid than Louise Seger, a Houston housewife. She drove her local disc jockey crazy with daily insistence that he play Patsy’s songs. And then, one day he announced that Patsy would be giving a concert in Houston. You can guess what happened – Louise was at the stage door both before and after the concert. And Patsy accepted Louise’s invitation to her home for breakfast and woman-talk well into the night!

 

This, then, is the plot of Always…Patsy Cline now playing to enthusiastic audiences at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. It is told through Louise’s eyes, and a rollicking tale it is! The two-woman show is the story of that concert, their blossoming friendship, and their exchange of dozens of letters that were always signed “Always…Patsy Cline.”

 

Nikki D’Amico is a hoot with her brassy repartee and gyrating stage-strutting. As she mimes driving to the concert or directing the combo, she comes close to stealing the show! Yet it’s her narrative that gives us glimpses into the two ladies’ friendship through the years. Anecdotes segue into Patsy’s songs, warmly delivered by Cori Cable Kidder. She stays true to Patsy’s style with its melodic slurring and verve while also bringing her own nuances to the songs—27 hits in all. Both actors may be commended for their excellent diction and projection.

 

Talk about live theater! This certainly is! Louise invites lots of audience interaction. Responding with cheers, hand-clapping and exuberant laughter, the opening-night audience seemed to feel they were actually in the Houston venue with Patsy, not just watching actors’ portrayals onstage here.

 

Based on a true story, Always…Patsy Cline takes us from the songstress’s early country western tunes to her eventual crossover to honky-tonk, pop, torch, gospel and more, the first female soloist to do so. As her musical style evolved, so did her costumes—from gingham and boots to spike heels and gold lamé pants. Her costume transformations were designed by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg, complemented by Krys Fehervari’s wig designs.

 

Robert Marra in his directorial debut at the Playhouse says he is excited to offer Patsy Cline’s story, which was written and originally directed by Ted Swindley.

 

Sean Paxton has a key role as music director for Patsy, helping polish her near-yodel and other characteristic subtleties, and with the band that accompanies her. John Vertrees designed the set with its heavy beams framing Patsy’s stage, a juke box on one side, and on the other, Louise’s kitchen where the new friends chatted over coffee long into the wee hours.

 

Diane Siegel as curator has again created a lobby exhibit to correlate with and enhance the play. Ponder it while waiting for the doors to open, or during intermission.

 

Co-producers Christian Lebano and Estelle Campbell bring us Always…Patsy Cline. Stage manager is Kristin Bolinski, with Gaselle Melendez assisting. Others comprising the production team include Orlando de la Paz, scenic artist; Anna Cecilia Martin, lighting; Cricket S. Myers, sound; and Erin Walley, assistant scenic designer/properties.

 

Always…Patsy Cline will enthrall us through September 12 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees, with an additional matinee Sat., Sept. 12. Admission is $34.50 general, $32 for seniors (65+), $25 for youth to age 21.

 

The Playhouse is at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Eateries and free parking are nearby. For reservations or more information, phone (626) 355-4318, or visit the website, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org for online ticketing. For reservations for groups of 15 or more, phone (626) 836-2125.

 

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By Fran Syverson

 

View the original review here.

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