Thursday, December 20, 2018

“Always…Patsy Cline”: Legendary Icon Returns to Standing Ovation.


Patsy Cline, like too many other musical legends, died young. Think Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. The sadness comes because we know they never reached their full potential. We didn't know much about them outside their musical careers or their struggles to reach new heights, oft times living in hotel rooms and at the mercy of their promoters, but their music and celebrity lives on.

Band in background with Cathy Barnett and Katie Karel
Cline was born in 1932 in Winchester,Va. She overcame poverty, a life threatening automobile accident and a throat infection that affected her vocal chords influencing her rich sound. Just as she was reaching her stride she was killed in a plane crash at Camden, Tenn., returning from Kansas City, MO. at the age of 30. Others on board the plane, who also died were Hawkshaw Hawkins, Randy Hughes, and Cowboy Copas. Country singer Jack Anglin died in an automobile accident on the way to her funeral.

In 1952, at the age of 20, she got her first country- singing contract. That same year she married and had two children. Her husband wanted her to stay home, she wanted her career. Her rise to fame came after singing “Walkin’ After Midnight” on the Arthur Godfrey show in 1957, the very year she divorced.

“Always…Patsy Cline”, is a musical tribute to the legendary country singer. It was written and originally directed by Ted Swinldley with additional material from Ellis Nassour. 
Katie Karel as Patsy Cline
It is ‘based on a true story’ or happening  between Patsy (Katie Karel) and a loyal listener and fan, Texas housewife Louisa Seger (Cathy Barnett).

The two had a chance meeting at a Houston honk-tonk in 1961 where Patsy was appearing. They became instant friends when local Cline booster, Louise, an enthusiastic and energetic fan from the get-go, went to see her perform in person.

From that first time meeting to their instant bonding, an overnight, an exchange about children (Louisa was divorced; Patsy was abused), their friendship never faulted. Louisa received letters from Patsy after Patsy was on the road, which was most of the time.  The letters were signed  “Always…Patsy Cline”
Cathy Barnett and Katie Karel

North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach is currently mounting a fun filled, song- fest with Barnett as the Emcee and funny gal with Karel singing her heart out as her straight partner in crime belting out more than twenty -five (give or take) signature tunes (written by a variety of artists including Hank William’s Sr. and Willy Nelson). 

What a trip down memory lane for yours truly?

Staged simply and effectively by director Allegra Libonati featuring these two wonderful women, the show (lasting about two hours) runs like a well -oiled machine with audience participation. In the mix there were a few dance numbers with Cathy Barnett and a gent she pulled in from the audience to  a few little pecks on the foreheads of some of the more senior in the audience. No one wanted the show to end extending it for three encores.
Cathy Barnett
On stage Marty Burnett designed a three-area setting featuring Louisa’s kitchen appointed appropriately with colorful wallpaper, an electric coffee maker and stove for the two to fry up some bacon and eggs, a performing space in center stage where the band is in full sight and one for ‘The Grand Ole Opry, Arthur Godfrey Show, Esquire Ballroom Show (strobe and all) and a Houston Radio Show filled in other sights where the two met. Matt Novotny’s lighting served the production well in each of the three areas and Elisa Benzoni’s costumes fit the ‘50’s –‘60’s period well.

Cast and Crew of "Always..."Patsy Cline"
“I Fall To Pieces”, “Your Cheatn’ Heart”, “Faded Love”, “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Seven Lonely Days”, “Stupid Cupid”, “You Belong to Me”, “Crazy”, “Shake Rattle and Roll” are just a few from the catalogue played to perfection accompanied by Fred Ubaldo, Jr. on Bass, Tim Cook aka Steelbone on pedal steel guitar (a most fascinating instrument). Jeff Dalrymple on drums and musical director Daniel Doss on keyboard.   

Katie Karel (Last of the Red Hot Lovers” “Always Patsy” -New Theater and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”) has a natural swag, charm and twang but offers little else about the real Patsy Cline. While not measuring up to Cline's sound, her performance is convincing and sincere. As her bud, Cathy Barnett, has traveled far and wide in the role of Louise.
Cathy Barnett
She is full of piss and vinegar retelling the meeting of the two and how their friendship grew and became special, of how they shared enduring life’s curve balls; of bringing up children; of spousal abuse (just touched on) and finally of a mutual love and admiration.

It’ a bitter-sweet, and yes, captivating piece with music to send you home with a tear of regret and sadness, yet… toe tappin’ and knee slappin’ satisfaction. It’s up beat as well with Barnett out in front throughout.

In 2005, her album “Patsy Clines Greatest Hits” sold over 2 million copies. I have one in my collection.

For an alternative holiday delight "Always...Patsy Cline" is a Best Bet. 

See you at the theatre.


Dates: Through Dec. 30th
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Phone: 808-481-1055
Production Jukebox Musical
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Ste. D
Ticket Prices: $ 45.00
Web: northcoastrep.org
Photo: Aaron Rumley

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