Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Directed by Pamela Hill, Always...Patsy Cline proves to be a delight throughout. And, though it is certainly geared toward fans of country music and to Patsy Cline in particular, the show should appeal to just about everyone. And this production features two absolutely lovely performers. As Patsy Cline, Mia Scarpa sings gloriously, sounding a great deal like the original star. Matching her completely, as Patsy's close friend Louise, Becky Barta actually carries a great deal of the musical, speaking directly to the audience throughout, and she is a warm presence onstage.
With evocative yet simple scenic design by Kelly Burr Nelsen, including an upper level for the onstage band, Always...Patsy Cline details the story of how Louise first became acquainted with Patsy Cline and how their friendship developed and grew into something quite wonderful. As Louise, Becky Barta acts as a sort of narrator, setting up each scene and establishing a rapport with the audience, and she also helps provide the platform (so to speak) for Mia Scarpa to deliver all of Patsy Cline's biggest hits.
As interesting and enjoyable it is to watch these women bond, it is really the song numbers in the show that allow Always...Patsy Cline to soar. Even without being overly familiar with the country music star, it still is great to hear such classic tunes as "Crazy," "Walkin' After Midnight," and "Your Cheatin' Heart" sung to the rafters. With the aid of period-perfect costumes designed by Diane Vanderkroef, Scarpa absolutely shines as Patsy and she only gets better as the show goes along. Other song favorites include "Stupid Cupid," "Sweet Dreams," and "I Fall to Pieces." This actress possesses the charisma and powerful voice to put them all over terrifically.
As noted in the program, Barta has actually played both Louise and Patsy Cline in previous productions of this show, and she brings the authority and know-how to the part of Louise that makes her sparkle (especially in the comedy) as much as her costar. The underpinnings of the deep friendship between these two women makes the show touch the heart; this spirit and depth of feeling is winning and welcome and helps the show to be much more than just a series of Patsy Cline songs.
Director Pamela Hill has staged the show beautifully, with the talented onstage musicians masterfully led by musical director Thomas Conroy. The work of lighting designer Sammy Ross is ideal, as is the sound design by Will Atkin.
Always...Patsy Cline is most definitely a show that is as pleasing to the eye as well as the ear. The title comes from the three words Patsy Cline wrote at the end of each letter she sent to Louise. The strong performances by both actresses and the splendidly sung Patsy Cline songs prove to be a winning combination that makes Always...Patsy Cline at Music Theatre of Connecticut a good time from beginning to end.
Always...Patsy Cline, through February 24, 2019, at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Ave., Norwalk CT . For tickets, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office at 203-454-3883.