Wednesday October 18th 2017

“Always…Patsy Cline”

Memories in musical theater, of those who have passed away, serve to keep them alive in our hearts. Patsy Cline was a young Country Western singer who in her few short years rose to the top and yet, without stories, such as “Always…Patsy Cline” her name and music might be gone for the majority of fans of the genre. Written by Ted Swindley and based on the actual story of Ms Cline and a very devoted fan, this story now comes alive on the intimate stage at Theater at The Center in Munster Indiana ( just a hop, skip and jump from Downtown Chicago).

Directed by Brian Russell, who is new to this theater but the man who directed the 1996 Chicago premiere of this show at American Theater Company which went from Northlight Theater in Skokie to settle in for a long stay at The Apollo n Lincoln Avenue ( where “Million Dollar Quartet” has been running for what seems like an eternity. While Theatre at The Center is a little different in size than the Apollo, it has the same type of intimacy and with Jack Magaw’s set and B. Emil Boulos’ lighting, we get the small feeling that this story demands.

Russell has brought the marvelous Heather Beck into Indiana to continue playing this role, one that she has a close connection with in that she has played this legend in “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline” and from what I saw tonight, she has the feeling, appearance and vocal talents to make you feel as if Patsy has come back to entertain you this one last time. Of greater importance to this story is the friend she made in her early days,Louise Seger , a Texas woman who was living a Country /Western existence when she felt the magic of the music and soul of Ms. Cline on the local radio and over a short period became her friend. Played to sweet perfection by Janelle Snow, who you will fall in love with during this two hours of magic. She is a delight and when she is on the stage with Ms Beck, one can see the special relationship coming to be , between these women. The sign on solid acting as they each become their characters and we, the audience, feel that we are watching life happen instead of a play about life happening. That is why live theater is so very special.

This is a show filled with wonderful music, 27 songs, inclusing “I Fall To Pieces”,”Sweet Dreams”, “Walking After Midnight” and of course, one of the biggest hits of all time, “Crazy”. This show is a tribute to a wonderful talent and her warmth and humor as well as humility as told by a woman who truly got to know her until her tragic death at the age of 30. All the letters written by Ms Cline to her new friend , Louise were signed “Love always,Patsy Cline” and so the title of this show which is more biography and tribute than a musical play and well worth the trip to Munster.

I guess the only drawback I found to the production was the touting of Dick Biondi, one of Chicago’s legendary DJ’s of the era being mentioned as part of the production as all they had was a short taped intro. Not anything that important and certainly not any reason to have him pictured in the program, the Who’s,Who and in the cast list. On the other hand all of the other aspects of this production—- picture perfect. The onstage musicians, under the direction of William A. Underwood, or should I say Billy-Bill, are dynamite-Steel Guitar,Billy Rick Koc,Bass, Billy Jamie Martinez,Fiddle, Billy Greg Hirte and on percussion, the fabulous Billy Harold Morrison. The Billy part is a joke that fits with the production, so I hope you will let that part slide a bit.

“Always…Patsy Cline” will continue at Theatre at The Center in Munster through April 1st with performances as follows:

Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m.,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. There are some “select” other performances. To check these out visit www.ThetareAtTheCenter.com or you can call the box office at 219-836-3255 or 1-800-511-1552

Tickets range from $38-$42, a true bargain and the theater is easy to get to with loads of free parking and quite a few dining options in the area with very reasonable menus and a lower sales tax- plus, gas is less, so the trip can almost pay for itself and you will have a whale of a time. If you are a C & W fan, this one will warm your hear and bring a smile to your face. If you never heard of Patsy Cline, you have got to be very young and this production will serve to educate you on a legend.

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