By Tina Arth
One look at the opening night audience made it clear that Broadway Rose’s decision to bring back a popular, enormously successful, brilliantly performed show after a 5-year hiatus is definitely a revival, not a recycle! Sara Catherine Wheatley and Sharon Maroney are reprising their roles in creator Ted Swindley’s Always… Patsy Cline, a musical love letter to the beautiful powerhouse who broke the glass ceiling, barriers between country and pop, and millions of hearts in her short singing career. If you’ve never seen it – go. If you saw it somewhere else - go. If you saw one of the two previous Broadway Rose productions, then I don’t need to tell you to go – you’ve already figured it out – and hopefully bought your tickets, as many performances are already close to sold out.
While it is in many ways a tribute concert (adorned with Wheatley’s renditions of 28 songs from Cline’s huge repertoire), there is a solid narrative, based on a true story, to carry move the evening along. To reprise my 2013 review, “The show is based on the real-life relationship between Patsy Cline and an ardent fan, Louise Seger. Louise fell in love with Patsy’s music after hearing her on the Arthur Godfrey Show, and spent one night as Patsy’s self-appointed manager and hostess that led to a lasting friendship between the two women. The story is told by Louise talking directly to the audience, direct conversations between Louise and Patsy, Louise’s imagination, Patsy and Louise interacting with the band, and of course the songs that Patsy sings in a foot-stomping couple of hours.”
Wheatley is simply amazing – if anything, her voice is even richer and her grasp of Cline’s vocal and personal mannerisms more accurate than the last time I saw her play the role. To again plagiarize the 2013 review, “Wheatley’s vocal ability and stage presence recreate the magic that can only be experienced when a first-rate performer is seen live – recordings just do not capture the exuberance or the intimacy that we imagine Patsy Cline must have brought to the stage. Remarkably, Wheatley achieves this without overt imitation – her vocal style, while reminiscent of Cline’s, is distinctly her own…”
As the star struck Houston divorcee Louise Seger, Sharon Maroney brings just the right touch of just-us-folks charm to her role as narrator and supporting character. Her spectacularly tacky attire presents a nice counterpoint to Wheatley’s increasingly elegant costumes and coiffures, and the rapport between the two women while they giggle, gossip, and cook up a mess of bacon and eggs tells us everything we need to know about Cline’s folksy roots.
Musical director/conductor/pianist Barney Stein has again done an extraordinary job of creating a true country band, placed right on stage where they ought to be - and the band’s frequent interactions with their vocalist, both joking around and in occasional vocal harmonies, precisely capture the egalitarian feel so critical to the creation of a down-home barn ambience.
In his program note, Director Chan Harris highlights the importance of genuine friendship in a world where texting and social media have often replaced the beauty of real human contact. For a couple of hours last Friday, I was transported from 2018 to 1961, able to put my worries aside and hang out with 200+ fellow music lovers. I strongly recommend that you do the same!
Always…Patsy Cline is playing at Broadway Rose’s New Stage, 12850 SW Grant Avenue, Tigard through Sunday, May 6th.