Sunday, May 2, 2010

Always Patsy Cline Charms STC

Michele Hillen (l.) and Dyan McBride
Courtesy Maria Christie Photography

Maybe it’s a lack of fresh, riveting drama, but based on the enthusiastic audience for “Cline,” theatergoers seem to be more interested in social awareness than in story telling, especially regarding women. Rather than a dramatized biography, we get a character profile, complete with music.

As Patsy, Dyan McBride provides not only a faithful representation of the singer, with voice to match, but also projects the kind of country-girl warmth that drew audiences to the real Patsy. The current audience also claps along to much of the familiar and loved tunes she bequeathed to us.

Louise (Michele Hillen), Patsy’s representative friend and fan, captures the warmth that brought those audiences to the versatile country singer from Virginia.

Born in 1932, Patsy was the daughter of a seamstress and a blacksmith father who deserted the family when Patsy was 15. Yet Patsy insisted the home was a happy one. A by-ear pianist who sang with perfect pitch, she began her career on a local radio station and climbed to success by way ABC-TV’s Grand Ole Opry and Arthur Godfry’s Talent Scouts in New York.

She recorded a string of hits, from country pop-crossover songs to the torch-song style that made her famous. Her biggest hit was Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” which made the top ten in 1961. In 1963, at 30 and to our loss at the height of her career, she died in an airplane crash.

Directed by Michael Laun, the show at STC, written and originally directed by Ted Swindley, is more of a dramatized concert than a play, with thirteen numbers divided between two acts. McBride’s spirited Patsy is supported by five musicians, led by Erik Daniells, as conductor and on piano.

Always Patsy Cline continues through May 23, with performances Wednesday (6:30 p.m.), Thursday (12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.), Friday (8 p.m.), Saturday (2 and 8 p.m.), Sunday (2 p.m.). Tickets are $15-$18; group tickets are $25. The Sacramento Theatre Company is at 1419 H Street, Sacramento. Call (916) 443-6722 or (888) 4-STC-TIX; Group Sales: (916) 446-7501 x 120. Check

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