Photos by Heather Hayes
Always… Patsy Cline is a show that both audiences and theaters love. It’s now at MTC (Music Theatre of Connecticut) in Norwalk through Feb. 24.
Audiences love it because it offers an evening of the hits of Patsy Cline, one of the first big country-western singers (and a cross-over performer) who died much too young. Plus, it has a feel good plot that ties into the fantasies of any devoted fan: becoming a friend and confidante with the performer.
For theaters, its popularity includes its audience appeal – people know and love Patsy Cline. Plus it has a small cast (two performers), a small band and limited sets and costumes. This is before the days when country-western performers had expensive costumes. So it is budget friendly.
Though the show opens with Patsy performing, it quickly shifts to the narrator, Louise Seger, a divorced single mother in Houston. She falls in love with Cline’s voice and pesters the local DJ to play the songs over and over several times a day. So when she learns Cline will be performing at the Esquire Ballroom, she and some friends make sure to arrive early. So early in fact, that no one is there. Except, soon Cline wanders into the space to check it out. Seger recognizes her and before long Cline has joined the group and Seger and her are sharing stories. In fact, Seger takes her home where they talk most of the night and then gets the local DJ she has been pestering to interview Cline.
They exchange letters for the brief period before Cline is killed in a plane crash.
Seger is a real person, though not quite the “typical” housewife portrayed in the show. She was a performer and had owned a nightclub in Houston, but she also worked for several manufacturing companies. But they did meet while Cline was on tour and they did establish a friendship that lasted until Cline died.
The success of this show depends on the performers: the actress playing Cline must be able to suggest her voice and stylings and the actress playing Seger must be friendly and folksy without being cloying.
MTC and director Pamela Hill have done a fantastic job with the casting. Betsy Barta who plays Louise, has performed the show (both as Louise and Patsy) in multiple productions. Her husband, David Sonneborn, is the bassist in the five member combo. She manages to control the potential for “cuteness” in the role.
Mia Scarpa, who has appeared at MTC several times, does a fine job as Cline. She captures the timbre of her voice—the throaty, mezzosoprano quality that audience loved. The costumes and wig makes her resemble Cline, who I have seldom seen. I remember most the film Sweet Dreams that starred Jessica Lange as Cline.
I would have liked if director Hill had toned down some of the obvious attempts at humor; they aren’t really necessary.
But overall, if you are a Patsy Cline fan, or love country-western music, or just want to have a good time, go see Always…Patsy Cline.
For tickets, visit MTC or call 203-454-3883.