Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Always...Patsy Cline
Walnut Street Theatre
Review by Rebecca Rendell


Jenny Lee Stern
Photo by Mark Garvin
I must confess to being skeptical about the Walnut Street Theatre's plan to bring Always...Patsy Cline to the main stage. Philadelphia probably does not need another jukebox musical this season, I am not a big country music fan, and it seemed unlikely that the Walnut would use this property to finally include more people of color in their productions. In spite of my skepticism I left the theater smiling, tapping my toes, and wishing that I could listen to just a few more songs. Rebecca Robbins's charismatic performance is delightful and Natalia De La Torre and Mark Mariani's lush costume designs dazzle, but Always soars largely because Jenny Lee Stern is absolutely magnificent as Patsy Cline.

For director Debi Marcucci's vivacious production, Stern brings a staggering 27 of Cline's greatest hits to life, including Walkin' After Midnight, I Fall to Pieces, and Back in Baby's Arms. Stern displays consummate skill and ample charm are in every song she sings. Thanks to John Kolbinski's top-notch sound design, each breathy whisper, sweet trill, and bold crescendo comes through loud and clear. Having a laid back band on stage is loads of fun too.

Rather than attempting to hash out all the details of Patsy Cline's personal and professional life, Always focuses on the unusual friendship between Cline and Louise Seger. Seger was a fan of Cline's music from television and radio. When Cline played at a honky-tonk bar in Houston, Seger introduced herself and bought her a beer. The pair became fast friends and exchanged letters until Cline's tragic death. The story is endearing enough to keep the audience invested, but simple enough to keep the focus on the music. Robbins plays Seger with a perfect blend of genuine warmth and irrepressible sass.

De La Torre and Mariani's excellent costume designs are fun, colorful, and instantly evocative of the late 1950s. The bold lighting design by Matt DeMascolo's raises the energy of the production at all the right moments. Brain Froonjian's set design creates a great sense of space, but the location transitions can be unclear and the onstage band is difficult to see because of the angle between their music stands and the audience. Fortunately, Stern's inviting smile and excellent vocals are there to smooth over any minor issues and make sure absolutely everyone has a great time.

Always...Patsy Cline runs through May 15, 2022, at the Walnut Street Theatre 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit WalnutStreetTheatre.org or call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787.

Cast
Patsy Cline: Jenny Lee Stern*
Louise Seger: Rebecca Robbins*

Crew
Director: Debi Marcucci
Music/Vocal Director: Chris Burcheri
Set Design: Brian Froonjian
Costume Design: Natalia De La Torre & Mark Mariani
Lighting Design: Matt DeMascolo
Sound Design: John Kolbinski


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