At once reverential and heartwarming, the show offers audiences a large sampling of Patsy Cline's most popular songs, as well as a peek at the life of a popular musician in the late 50s and early 60s. This was the period before private jets, security guards and appearance fees and the opportunity for a star to connect with a fan on such a deeply personal level feels natural to the time. There's an undeniable pull to both her music and vivacious personality, and Jacqueline Petroccia fills the title role in voice and mannerisms.
The artful script by Ted Swindley is filled with humanity and humor, relating Patsy Cline's rise to fame, in an exceptional performance by Petroccia, as well as the true story of her friendship and correspondence with Louise Seger, a fan from Texas played with cheeky, thoroughly feminine, enthusiasm by the inimitable Zoe Vonder Haar. Petroccia and Vonder Haar have an easy, comfortable relationship that seems to develop right before the audiences' eyes, and each woman has ample opportunity to showcase her considerable talents.
Vonder Haar is at once engaging and delightful; her interaction with the audience never feels planned or out of place, and her Seger fills the stage with such lively energy; it makes one wonder just where Petroccia's Cline will fit in. Then, the lights focus on the "Grand Ol' Opry" stage and the first song begins and the room, Vonder Haar included, tunes in. Petroccia is, frankly, the best Patsy Cline I've ever seen. Her ability to capture the subtle nuances and gestures of Patsy Cline, in particular her spot on tone and textured phrasing, are simply mesmerizing.
The six-piece band backing Petroccia featured Lisa Campbell Albert on Piano, John Higgins on pedal steel and acoustic guitars, Jon Ferber on electric and acoustic guitars, Kevin Buckley on fiddle, Vince Corkery on bass, and Don Drewett on drums. They provide backing vocals and performed "How Great Thou Art" in perfect harmony. Their visibility was a treat that added real depth to the show, and their live performance is to be commended; the high and lonesome notes of a pedal steel guitar just don't have the same resonance in a recording. Further, I really enjoyed the way their interaction with both Petroccia and Vonder Haar increased as the show went on.
Clever staging of this show was a crucial, and the company made good use of the theater's size and capabilities, which allowed the scenes to flow into each other effortlessly. Louise Seger's humble home was featured, and moving, invisible when backlit scrims were used to reveal the performance venues as well as to allow the audience to see the stellar band during most of the songs. No detail was too small or insignificant, and every member of the cast, as well as the director, designers and crew, ensured that nothing was overlooked.
For wholesome entertainment, it's hard to beat the classics, and Patsy Cline's star still shines bright. "Always... Patsy Cline" runs through June 30th in The Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Civic Center. The performance was sold out the night I attended, please call the box office at 314-821-2407 for more information on the availability of tickets.