By Paige Allison
Always… Patsy Cline, The Tada Theatre, March 17, 2022 7:30PM
Always… Patsy Cline chronicles the unlikely relationship between the country music queen and an ardent fan. It seems the actors’ own relationship was almost as instantaneous as the one between their characters; an instant connection built on trust and commonalities. Louise Seger (Cris Rook) and Patsy Cline (Kyttra Burge) have a long running friendship and that is only part of what makes this show so genuine.
The natural chemistry between the actors is apparent from the moment the performers share the stage. Rook’s effervescence, charisma and perfect comedic timing, and Burge’s caring, good natured personality shine throughout the show.
Against the intimate backdrop of a cozy kitchen in rural 1950’s Houston and a honky-tonk bar, the stage is utilized for optimal intimacy; the comradery at the bar table and the homey feel of the kitchen table in Louise’s home. The technical talents of Jenna Williamson (set design), master carpentry and painting by Kevin Welch and Jon Kruse respectively, supported by the costume artistry of Karen Statham, light direction by Bob Rook and sound operator John Batenhorst create not just a “look” for the show but a feel; exactly what theatergoers expect from a solid production. The musical arrangements of Bill Maltas and the music direction of Cris Rook (pulling double duty as an actor) are foundational. Elysia Ann Arntzen is a well-versed stage manager, no small task in any production! Of course the artistic vision and experience of Director Bob Rook is evident in every choice made to bring this theatrical production to life!
As history tells the story, Louise learns that her country music idol is performing in her own home town. Louise brings her reluctant boss and partner to Patsy’s show. Superfan Louise insists that they arrive early so as to not miss a minute, only to be the only ones at the club. As fortune and fortitude would have it, Louise, determined to meet her favorite singer, boldly introduces herself and a new friendship is born. After sharing a Schlitz with the up-and-coming star, Louise finds her to be as personable and sweet as she is talented. Patsy, in turn, welcomes Louise’s down-to-earth quirkiness. Banter ensues. Cris Rook’s bold portrayal of Louise is the perfect balance and contrast to Burge’s seemingly demure Patsy. Patsy has a sleepover at Louise’s home; a welcome respite for a “girl singer” on the road to stardom in those days. Cline’s life away from her family and son is indeed lonely and Louise Seger’s friendship is a refreshing balm.
One of Cline’s lesser known songs “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” is a poignant and pivotal moment in the bonding of the two characters in the story. The TADA theatre has long been instrumental in all things environmentally friendly on stage: be sure that the audience is completely immersed in the smokey moment, and the illusion of the smokey haze in Louise’s kitchen, without the concern of second hand stage smoke. The moment is heavy with emotion and raw connection between the women.
Cris Rook’s skill as a musical director and Bob Rook’s overall expertise in directing shine in Always… Patsy Cline. The rhythm of the show is compelling and the scenes flow seamlessly. Music and characters meld and create an artistic picture of a heartfelt relationship. Bob Rook’s directorial choices are haunting, emotional, and indeed authentic, packing the emotional punch that only Patsy Cline’s music and an extraordinarily tightly constructed show could deliver.
The iconic music of Patsy Cline and her indubitable contribution to the country music industry is powerfully showcased with classics like “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and “Crazy,” along with many other classics to enthrall true fans and tantalize those who are less familiar with her work. In fact, the director of the show mused that younger fans have approached him after the show inquiring if Patsy’s music is available on the internet for them to download. Even as we learn how the story of Patsy and Louise’s friendship unfolds, to all her fans, long time and new, she is timeless…. Always…. Patsy Cline.
If you go: Additional shows will be performed March 18 – April 3, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Go to www.tadatheatre.info to reserve tickets. Due to current CDC recommendations as well as lower hospitalizations, and their state of the art air purification system, TADA does not require proof of vaccination and face coverings to attend its productions at this time.
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