Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Red Door: "Always, Patsy Cline"

There's another weekend to see Always, Patsy Cline at the Red Door Theatre in Union Springs -- if tickets are available, that is. It has been playing to packed houses.

Director William Harper's lively production of Ted Swindley's 1990 play has audiences applauding in recognition of many of Ms. Cline's hit tunes -- "Anytime", "I Fall to Pieces", "Crazy" among them -- and enthusiastically cheering Lisa Norton in the title role (double-cast with Tina Hosey on alternate nights), and Janet Wilkerson as Louise Seger, her unlikely friend and narrator of the story who met her at a Texas honky tonk and struck up an instant friendship.

The on-stage six-piece "Bodacious Bobcats Band" is, in a word terrific, providing both authentic renditions of the production's twenty-seven songs, and excellent support for Ms. Norton's ample voice. They overpower her at times when she sings in her lower register, but the balance is much better when she opens up in full voice.

Ray Thornton's set: an iconic replication of the Grand Ole Opry that houses the band, a simple kitchen, the suggestion of a nightclub, and an open space, allows for smooth location shifts as the story progresses.

Ms. Wilkerson -- adept as always with comic timing and direct engagement with the audience -- not only narrates the arc of Patsy Cline's career and the two women's friendship, but she also voices several other characters, delightfully characterizing them with broad descriptive gestures.

Between them. Ms. Wilkerson and Ms. Norton establish a comfortable rapport, and when the focus is on Patsy's songs (as it is for most of the play's running time), Ms. Norton gathered momentum after a tentative start to ultimately charm us all.