Theatre Review: Always…Patsy Cline a Safe Choice
Let me preface all of this by stating that I do not particularly enjoy musicals where plot subordinates the music. I like driving stories and forward momentum. I wrote those same two sentences a year ago to introduce CATCO’s musical Five Guys Named Moe and feel the need to reiterate those feelings for the much worse Always…Patsy Cline.
The show chronicles the true friendship between Patsy Cline and a fan she once met named Louise Seger. Cline even spent the night at the woman’s house, and the two became lifelong friends. Basically, Clines’s songs are sung between snippets of Louise’s retelling of the story of their meeting that one time. This goes on for two hours.
Katie Deal plays what might be a fairly accurate Patsy Cline. She has portrayed the singer many times previously, so the songs sound quite good and like Ms. Cline. While Cline’s reputation of generosity and respect remain strong to this day, Deal’s characterization paints the singer in a hyper-angelic light. It feels a bit fake and full of unrealistic adoration, but maybe that’s just Southern hospitality I don’t understand.
Kristie Koehler Vuocolo plays a quirky Louise. I overheard an audience member mentioning he would’ve liked Louise toned down. I could not agree more. The character grates on nerves yet should provide comedy, but she ultimately creates a desperate, star-struck, further idolatry feel to this production. This is underscored by the putrid Mondrian-esque floor that obnoxiously clashes with her pink Western blouse. The character seems entirely out of place in a show that is kind of partially about her.
Music director Matt Clemens ensures the music, which everyone goes to hear, sounds fine. The band, David Wolbert, Devin Copfer, Andrew Sais, and Matt Tippy, proves a delight to both watch and listen to. They possess a fun energy among themselves. Marcia Hain designs a plethora of very appropriate, period, and beautiful costumes mostly for Patsy Cline.
Overall, this production feels comfortable. No risks were taken either in its selection or its execution. In fact, no risks were taken in the writing of the show. The script contains no conflict. This is literally a concert with an annoying narrator. The set feels tired, as though a previously used CATCO set received a different coat of paint, and the lighting looks drab as it switches between lighting the entire theater and focusing on the microphone. Always…Patsy Cline feels like a safe chaser to CATCO’s recent production of Steel Magnolias.
CATCO will sell out most of the shows; in fact, it was already extended to June 22. People that grew up listening to Patsy Cline will probably love this show. Those that did not may find it entertaining, but the pacing remains tortoise-like slow and the plot near non-existent to capture my attention.
Always…Patsy Cline plays through June 22 at Studio Two in the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street. Thurs-Sat at 8 pm; Sun at 2 pm; Wed at 11 am. General Admission is $41.00 on Thurs. and Sun.; $45.00 on Fri. and Sat.
More information can be found online at CATCO.org.