I thought a sunny, Sunday afternoon might be stiff competition for a theater performance, but the Penobscot Theatre Company’s Sunday matinee of “Always… Patsy Cline” was packed. Word must have gotten out — the show is a hit.
Even if you’re too young to remember Patsy Cline, who died in an airplane crash in 1962, you will be irresistibly drawn into this nostalgic tale that is both musical revue and dramatic performance. “The one and only” Patsy Cline was a country singer who took the music world by storm during her tragically brief life. She only lived to the age of 30, but her renown lives on 50 years later. She is considered today to be one the greatest singers of all time.
“Always… Patsy Cline,” has seen successful productions off-Broadway, all over the U.S. and abroad since 1993. It has a lot going for it. Cline’s music offers up powerful emotion. The heartwarming (and true) relationship between Pasty Cline and Louise Seger, an avid Texan fan, is brilliantly developed with both humor and poignancy. Finally, the audience is invited to join in the fun by clapping, singing, and even dancing.
In PTC’s production, directed by Jon Ferreira, Patsy Cline is played by Laura Hodos. When Hodos launches into her songs, you hear murmurs of appreciative recognition from the crowd. Hodos sings Cline beautifully, with an especially stirring delivery of those long, silky, sustained notes of the slower ballads.
Julie Lisnet played the part of Seger, Patsy’s fan-turned-friend. Lisnet’s first scene in the show lit up the stage and brought an energy to the show that was sustained throughout. Her mischievous twinkle added exactly the right touch of humor to the whole performance. She was both narrative thread and instigator of laughter in between musical numbers.
Hats off to the six-member cowboy band, which roused the audience with their exuberant entrances. Not only did they produce rousing, evocative music, they also added color as an extra “character” in the show. I would have liked to read more about them in the program.
Even without set changes, the scenery was fun to look at. Somehow we moved seamlessly from a 1950s kitchen to a honky-tonk Texas bar, with Patsy and the band filling the middle with song. Although the slightly bedraggled state of Patsy Cline’s wig was a distraction for me, the overall effect of Rebecca Wright’s costumes on Cline added wonderful color and variety to the aesthetics of the stage.
Judging by post-performance buzz, this show is crowd-pleaser. Grab a friend and go see “Always… Patsy Cline” at the Penobscot Theatre Company. You’ll find yourself repeating the words I heard on the way out of Sunday’s show: “Wasn’t that fun!” “Did you love it? I loved it!” “I’ll be singing all the way home!”
Robin Clifford Wood is a freelance writer and columnist for the Bangor Daily News.