Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Theater Review: Always Patsy Cline -- Ivoryton Playhouse

Jacqueline Petroccia

Touching Trip Down Memory Lane Might Make You Fall to Pieces
By Lauren Yarger
Patsy Cline touched the hearts of many with her soulful tunes like “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “She’s Got You” and “I Fall to Pieces,” thanks in part to her ability to make her listeners feel like she was a friend talking to them personally, expressing their own thoughts.

It wasn’t a performance. All accounts paint Cline as a warm and generous person. Always Patsy Cline, playing at the Ivoryton Playhouse brings to life the true friendship between Patsy (Jacqueline Petroccia) and one of her biggest fans, Louise (Laurie Dawn). Penned and originally directed by Ted Swindley, the show packs almost 30 tunes around the story of how the women met and continued their friendship through letters in the late 1950s and early ’60s until Cline’s death in a plane crash at the age of 30. 

Louise , the divorced mother of two, first hears Patsy on the Alfred Godfrey television show. She can’t hear enough of Cline’s music and soon is calling the local country radio station in Houston every day to request her favorite crooner. One day the DJ tells her Cline will be appearing right there in town at the Esquire Ballroom and Louise recruits a group to attend. She’s so excited, she insists they arrive hours before the program starts. 

As a result, she meets Patsy who is scoping out the room prior to the performance. The two strike up a fast friendship and Louise ends up acting as Cline’s manager for the engagement, negotiating better terms for the singer and conducting the band (played here by the six-man Bodacious Bobcats Band directed by John Sebastian DeNicola.) 

Swindley’s narrative is tedious and needlessly repetitive at times, but Dawn infuses Louise with enough charm and humor to overcome it and Director Jacqueline Hubbard allows Dawn enough creative freedom to make the character stand out on her own, instead of having the character serve only as a springboard for Cline’s songs. With the exception of reaching for some lower notes, Petroccia sounds (and looks) a lot like Cline and effortlessly belts out tunes with which the audience, encouraged during one number, sings along. She gives a solid portrayal of a kind, genuine woman who seems unaffected by fame and is quite at home donning an apron and pitching in with dinner when she accepts Louise’s invitation to bypass a lengthy trip to her hotel and spend the night at the home of her new friend instead.

At one point, a member of the audience was tapped by Louise to dance with her through one of the numbers and the real treat was the delightful laughter of his wife as she watched.

William Russell Stark’s set creates Louise’s humble home and serves as a backdrop for performances at The Grand Ole Opry and other locations. Doug Harry’s lighting design and Lisa Marie Harry’s period and country-music style costumes for Cline, define the era. 

It’s a sweet, nostalgic story nicely done.

Always Patsy Cline plays at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., through April 1. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm with 2 pm matinees at 2 on Wednesday and Sunday. Tickets range from $15 to 40 and are available by calling 860-767-7318 or by visiting

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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