There’s a lot to like about the Cincinnati Playhouse’s non-holiday show for the holiday season, Ted Swindley’s Always … Patsy Cline. It’s a revue that includes two dozen of Cline’s best-known songs, and actress Carter Calvert perfectly captures the iconic Country singer’s delivery and manner. Cline established a model that many Country singers still follow, and this show is a back-to-basics reminder.
The show’s framework is a friendship between Cline and Louise (Kathleen M. Brady), a “good old gal” who first heard the singer on TV, made her acquaintance at a Houston club, and then exchanged letters in the years before her life ended in a 1963 plane crash. Louise is more than a narrator: Her over-the-top adoration of Cline and her spunky personality (she drives a car called “Sexy Dude”) contrasts nicely to the dedicated but introverted performer
We learn about Louise’s fascination with Cline as well as bits about her life illustrated by her best-known tunes, starting with the opening number “Honky Tonk Merry Go Round” about “riding high and feeling low.” Cline did not write her songs (in fact, she couldn’t read music), but she took unqualified ownership of the many numbers we think of as hers — “Back in Baby’s Arms,” “Anytime,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces” and even the sassy “Stupid Cupid.”
Whether Calvert portrays Cline by swinging through the syncopated “San Antonio Rose,” expressing regret in Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” giving new depth to Cole Porter’s “True Love” or serving up the heartfelt hymn “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” she reminds audiences that the singer was a woman whose calling card was honesty, a strong, natural voice that directly conveyed loss, longing, joy and love.
ALWAYS … PATSY CLINE, presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, continues through Jan. 22, 2012. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.