TR Robertson — Solana Beach, CA … The North Coast Rep in Solana Beach is coming close to selling out each performance of Ted Swindley’s “Always … Patsy Cline” as those in the audience step back to the late 1950’s to hear the story of country singer Patsy Cline’s rise in the music world. The story is told through the hilarious memories of Louise Segar, Cline’s most ardent fan. If you love nostalgia, good old country and pop music, good memories and an absolutely entertaining evening you do not want to miss the final performances of this fun filled musical.
Cline rose to fame from very humble beginnings in Winchester, Virginia. Her birth name is Virginia Patterson Hensley, but she kept her second husbands name and on the advice of her recording company shortened her middle name to Patsy. She is considered one of the most successful cross-over country artists, moving from country music to the pop music of the 1960’s. Her enthusiastic, emotional voice, known for rich tones and her interpretation of “torch” songs, she attributed to rheumatic fever she had at age 13. Cline said when she recovered, her voice had changed and people began to tell her she sounded a lot like Kate Smith. As she began her musical career, Cline would begin singing honky tonk, experimented with rockabilly, moved into the country sound and eventually would cross-over to pop. Her 1957 recording of Don Hecht and Alan Block’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” and appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and on Arthur Godfrey’s “Talent Scouts” would help make her a household name. She was the first female solo artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, in 1973, and was voted #1 on Country Music Televisions 40 Greatest Women of Country Music. Cline, her pilot Randy Hughes, country performers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins were killed in an ill-fated small plane crash in Tennessee on March 5, 1963. Cline died at the age of 30.
The North Coast musical tells a portion of Cline’s story based on the friendship she developed with Louise Seger. Through the eyes of Seger we are taken back to Cline’s early beginnings, how she interacted with the band and her audiences, the struggles she had in her personal life and all of this paints a picture of the human side of a performer most people don’t see. Cathy Barnett is drop-dead hilarious as the gregarious, extremely out-going Louise and through her story we meet Patsy Cline and through Cline’s music the story of her life unfolds. Her outspoken country humor has the audience howling at times. Barnett has performed the roll of Louise across the nation and you can genuinely tell she loves this roll and the story of one of country’s most popular early artists.
Playing Patsy Cline, and returning to the North Coast Rep, is Katie Karel. Karel and Barnett are close friends and their ease and comfort on stage is very obvious. Karel sings close to 27 of Cline’s songs, showing the range Cline had and how she changed through the short time she performed. Her interpretation of Cline’s sound was magic and took the audience back in time. Classic Cline fringed Western wear would began the show and her styles would change through the early years. Cline’s mother was actually a seamstress and sewed the outfits Cline designed.
The North Coast Rep set was divided into Louise’s kitchen, The Grand Ole Opry Stage, the Arthur Godfrey Show stage, The Esquire Ballroom in Houston and a Houston radio station. As the two performers moved about the NC Rep Stage we were led through the different parts of Cline’s life. The Musicians making up Clone’s band stayed on stage for the entire show and didn’t miss a beat. Playing Pedal Steel Guitar is Tim Cook, Standing Bass played by Fred Ubaldo, Jr., on drums Jeff Dalrymple and on Keyboards Daniel Doss.
The director for “Always…Patsy Cline” is Allegra Libonati. Libonati has directed theatre across the nation. She was the Resident Director at the American Repertory Theater for nine seasons and directed musicals and Shakespeare productions for thirteen seasons at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan. Her creative team for this production included Musical Director Daniel Doss, Set Designer Marty Burnett, Lighting Designer Matt Novotny, Costume Designer Elisa Herman, Hair & Wig Designer Peter Herman and Stage Manager Cindy Rumley.
This musical is definitely an audience participation show including sing-a-longs and Louise’s venture into the audience to dance with several guests. This is definitely a not to be missed show, if you can get seats. The musical ends on December 30th. Performances are on Wednesday – Saturday nights at 7:30 pm, Sunday at 2 pm and a Thursday matinee on December 27th at 2 pm. All tickets are $45.00. Discounts are available for seniors, students, military and educators. North Coast Rep is located at 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr. in Solana Beach, eastern side of Highway 5. To see if any tickets are available for this exciting musical, call 858-481-1055 or go to www.northcoastreep.org.