Always...Patsy Cline Review

Door Off Broadway Captures Cline's Essence

By Ed Huyck

Play review

“Always...Patsy Cline”: dinner seating starts 6 p.m., curtain 8 p.m., through October 18th, 2003 (dark Sundays & Mondays) at Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Mr. G’s, two miles south of Jacksonport. $45.95 plus tax. (920) 823-2899.

In six short years, Patsy Cline went from an unknown singer trying to break in to the business to a bona fide country and pop legend. Though a plane crash in 1963 cut her career and life short at age 30, her music has lived on .

Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre opened a solid production last week of "Always...Patsy cline," the delightful exploration of the down-to-earth singer's music, life and personality. It's a well-thought-out production with great playing, fine singing and - at its core - a very human and heartfelt relationship between Cline and on of her biggest fans.

Cline's all-too-short career stretched from 1957 to 1963, but most of "Always...Patsy Cline" takes place over a single night. Our tour guide is Louise Leger, a young Houston divorcee who has adored Cline's music since the first time she heard her sing on the Arthur Godfrey Show.

With Cline scheduled to perform in town, Leger makes sure she is in the front. Her early arrival means she gets to meet Cline, and the two become fast friends. That only gets deeper when Leger invites Cline over to her home and the two discover they have plenty in common.

What makes the story all the more fun in that it is true. Cline may have been a huge sate at the time, but she never lost sight of her roots. That really is the heart of Ted Swindley's tale. So while there is still plenty of music (more than 25 Cline hits are performed), there really is much more of a heart in "Always...Patsy Cline" than in most musical revues.

You need quality actresses to bring off Patsy an Louise. As the friend, Bonni Allen (featured as Maxene in Door Off Broadway's summer show, "Sister of Swing") is funny and engaging. At first, it seems like she might be trying too hard to please - cracking jokes with the audience, sharing her earthy humor - but it becomes clear that this is the character inside Louise: someone with a big mouth, but also with a big heart.

For much of the show, Nancy Jane Nelson just sings, which is nearly enough of a task for any single show. Nelson doesn't try to ape Cline's voice. Instead, she gives the songs her own touch. Her voice is strong - full of color and range - and she sings with plenty of gusto. And while there is a little too much "American Idol" type dynamics in songs that require a mere subtle touch, Nelson brings the songs alive throughout.

She does the same with Cline's character. When she does get he chance to speak instead of sing, the warmth of the character comes clearly out.

All of this is helped by a great hand, "The Bodacious Bobcats" (made up of Scott Hawley, Sam Lark, Craig McClelland and Bruce Newborn), who make the song swing but also add enough of a gentle touch to provide some extra pleasure for the ears.

Door Off Broadway cofounder Jim Zimmerman once again directs. The show flies from song to song, and the energy never wanes from the performance. Again, like Nelson's singing, Zimmerman could use a more subtle hand in directing. It's just that "Always...Patsy Cline" has such a big heart at the center - the relationship that develops between Patsy and Louise - that you hate to have any of it shortchanged.

But, in the end, "Always...Patsy Cline" is a treat for anyone who loves country western, or just loves great music. You get that in spades. With a score that includes "Crazy," "Walking After Midnight," "Your Cheatin' Heart" and nearly two dozen more, it is hard to go wrong.

©2003 Door County Advocate

"This is the fourth time we have seen "Always...Patsy Cline" at different theatres. Bonni Allen is terrific/outstanding as Louise! Exceptional!"

- Satisfied Patrons

"Nancy Jane Nelson is Patsy Cline reincarnated!! What a voice! Great moves! Loved the show, dinner, and waitress. Thanks!"

- Satisfied Patron

Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre
5890 Hwy. 57, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235    Box Office: (920)823.2899
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