A Honkytonk Friendship

It’s a story of friendship between a down to earth country star and her biggest fan.  This is Always. . .Patsy Cline and it is currently playing at the Jewish Community Center under the auspices of Performing Artists Repertory Theatre.

Ted Swindley has written a pretty effective script.  While the show does pay tribute to Cline’s music (skillfully performed by Vince Learned and his band), it is more about the true story of the friendship between Louise Seger and Patsy Cline.  Swindley deftly cuts the duties of this show between a top flight storyteller and a world class singer as the character of Seger shares the story of how she became a fan of Cline’s music and then befriended her when she performed at a honkytonk in the early 60s.  The character of Cline doesn’t do much acting, but needs a mountainesque presence to go with a superior set of vocal chops.  Fortunately, this show has both elements in spades.

Gordon Cantiello’s direction is quite exceptional.  Not only do his two actresses perfectly embody their characters, but the relationship between them feels organic and genuine.  Cantiello also found a surprising number of beats in the script and keeps it engrossing as the story of Seger and Cline is, at turns, sweet, humorous, loving, and sad.

Connie Lee turns in a winning (dare I say award winning?) performance as Louise Seger.  Seger is definitely a character.  She’s iron willed, free spirited, and brassy as all get out.  But she’s also loyal, caring, and an awful lot of fun to be around.   Lee is a delight to watch with her incredible animation.  I just got a kick watching her react to Cline’s performances as she swayed to the music, outright danced to it, and made VERY sure that Cline’s drummer didn’t rush the backbeat.  More impressive is how she does it in a way that you notice it, but it doesn’t pull attention away from Cline.  Lee also does a bit of nifty improvisation to get the audience involved in the show.

Kellyn Danae Wooten was so spot on as Patsy Cline that if my eyes were closed I would have thought she was Cline.  Wooten perfectly emulates Cline’s throaty alto as she performs her classic hits including “Crazy”, “Sweet Dreams”, and “Walking After Midnight” just to name a few and also threw in a few encores for the audience at the end.  Though the character of Cline has very little spoken dialogue, Wooten had the warm, welcoming presence of the down to earth singer who I’m certain was “greatly relieved” to be treated like a regular person by Seger.

It’s a fun and amusing show and you don’t even have to be a fan or know much about Patsy Cline to enjoy the show.  If you enjoy a good bit of storytelling and enjoy good music, you will have a fun time watching this production.

Always. . .Patsy Cline runs through October 31.  Showtimes are 1pm and 4pm on October 23 and 3pm on October 31.  Tickets cost $37 and can be purchased by calling 402-706-0778.  The Jewish Community Center is located at 333 S 132nd St in Omaha, NE.

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