Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Cline's life was immortalized in the film Sweet Dreams, and in both Coal Miner's Daughter and the recent TV movie "Patsy & Loretta," the friendship Cline had with the up and coming singer Loretta Lynn was documented. The musical Always...Patsy Cline also focuses on a real relationship Cline had, but this time with one of her fans. This musical has been a steady favorite for regional theatre companies since it debuted in 1988, and Hale Centre Theatre's current production features two strong female leads, including Cori Cable Kidder who embodies the heart, soul and voice of Patsy Cline.
Ted Swindley wrote the book for the musical, which focuses on the relationship Cline had with Louise Seger, a Houston housewife who befriended Cline at a concert in 1961. The two would become friends and exchange letters over the next two years, until Cline's sudden and unfortunate death. Swindley used the letters the two wrote as the basis for his book, with the title of the show coming from Cline's signature line when signing them, with the plot of the show focusing on Seger as she reminisces about the time Cline spent the evening at Seger's home after her concert. With more than two dozen songs, including all of Cline's most famous tunes, intertwined amongst the memories Seger shares, this is a potent reminder of the musical accomplishments of Cline and the strong connection she had with her fans.
The story is told entirely from Seger's point of view. While that could make the show a bit lopsided, the devotion and love Seger feels for her heroine's music comes through in the emotionally rich dialogue. All of the musical performances in the show are sung by Cline, which helps to balance the show. The songs are a wonderful blend of the many musical styles Cline recorded, from country to gospel, hymns, and even a touch of early rock 'n' roll.
Cori Cable Kidder is a knock-out as Cline. Her strong vocal abilities evoke Cline's signature singing style in every one of the songs, but her performance is more than mimicking this famous woman. She also makes Cline a real person, one who has issues and problems and is just as complicated as Louise and the rest of us. Alaina Beauloye infuses Louise with a large dose of warmth combined with a big dollop of sass. Her line delivery, vocal inflections, and body language beautifully depict the admiration and love Louise had for Cline. Beauloye and Kidder both do an excellent job of portraying how this country star and a Texas woman found a common bond.
Director Cambrian James ensures that the few dramatic scenes as well as the comedy moments ring true and that both of his leading ladies create warm, realistic individuals. Lincoln Wright's music direction delivers strong vocals and a lovely sound from the six-piece onstage band. Angela Manke and Tia Hawkes's costumes are beautiful period throwbacks and James' wig designs, especially his knock-out stylized wig for Beauloye, are superb.
Always...Patsy Cline is a lovely musical that shows how a friendship can form between a famous person and a simple housewife. Hale Centre Theatre's production features two wonderful actresses who shine, with beautiful renditions of all of Cline's most famous songs. This is a moving musical that perfectly honors the legacy of Patsy Cline.
Always...Patsy Cline runs through March 24, 2020, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181
Director/Choreographer: Cambrian James