ALWAYS… PATSY CLINECreated and Originally Directed by Ted Swindley
Plaza Theatre Company
Director - Jay Lewis
Stage Manager - Stormy Witter
Music Director - Cheri Dee Mega
Costume Designer - Emily Warwick
Props Designer - Soni Barrus
Light Designer - Cameron Barrus
Sound Designer - Parker Barrus & Cameron Barrus
Set Designer - Parker Barrus
Set Decoration - Soni Barrus, Deb & Mark Dandridge
Set Construction - Jesse Bowron, Nolan Moralez, Saúl Ibarra, Trace Morris
Board Operations - Luke Hunt
Patsy Cline - Caitlan Leblo
Louise Seger - Shauna Lewis
THE BODACIOUS BOBCATS
Piano - Cheri Dee Mega
Electric Guitar - Parker Barrus
Fiddle - Howard Giesel
Bass - Freddy Martinez Jr.
Drums - Trā Neuman
Reviewed Performance: 7/6/2019
Reviewed by Rebecca Roberts, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The show opens at The Grand Ole Opry where Patsy Cline is introduced to the audience through a few familiar hit songs. Even upon first impression, Caitlan Leblo clearly portrays the musical icon through her carefully chosen vocal stylings. However, the opening scene lacks a breathtaking production design quality that was really needed to get the audience primed for the rest of the show. It wasn’t until Shauna Lewis walked onstage and started telling Louise Seger’s story that the show really got up and running.
Louise was a Houston housewife in the late 50’s when she first heart Patsy over the radio. She fell in love with her voice, and would pester her local radio DJ to play Patsy’s music as often as possible. Four years later, Louise got the opportunity to attend one of Patsy’s shows and just happened to strike up a casual conversation with her. It was the start of a beautiful friendship, and the premise for this show’s loose plot structure.
Shauna Lewis captivated the audience from the second she walked onstage, and told Louise Seger’s story with a natural charisma and enthusiasm. She amazingly never missed a beat in her ample monologuing, and she kept the production moving at a perfect pace. Her persistent interactions with the audience always felt authentic and spontaneous, keeping us on our toes and constantly engaged with the story.
Where Lewis’ role in the production was solely dialogue-based, Leblo found herself on the opposite end of the spectrum, leading the show in a lyrically-based manner. Her constant costume changes kept my head spinning, but she never once seemed uneasy or rushed onstage. Her calm, yet complex, stage presence absolutely suited that of Patsy Cline’s…and that isn’t where the similarities stopped. Leblo obviously did ample research on Patsy’s musicality, making clear and specific choices for every single note that came out of her mouth. She matched Patsy’s every note, octave, beat, and accent perfectly.
These spot on vocal stylings were no doubt heavily supported by music director, Cheri Dee Mega. She emulated the classic 1950’s country music sound and led the Bodacious Bobcats band beautifully. The onstage band was dressed up in blacks and matching bandannas, and their interactions with Lewis and Leblo were extremely entertaining.
Director Jay Lewis cast this show perfectly – a difficult feat when trying to cast performers to embody real life recognizable characters. Jay also did an excellent job staging this production. Having only a two-person cast means keeping the audience’s attention is a much trickier job. However, his use of the stage’s turntable made sure all sides of the audience in this in-the-round space were able to experience the Patsy Cline musical numbers equally and thoroughly.
Speaking of the turntable, Parker Barrus’ set design was smart and efficient. The bandstand was wisely stationed on one side of the stage, and didn’t block any sightlines (even with the upright bass). The small stage on which Patsy performed a number of times was positioned close to the edge of the turntable, so it was visible from all sides when moving. And it even had functioning footlights! However, my favorite part of the stage was Louise Seger’s color blocked kitchen. The checked floors, red kitchen pieces/decor, and yellow phone/side table were so aesthetically pleasing and perfectly vintage. Soni Barrus and Deb and Mark Dandridge did an amazing job dressing that corner of the stage and might just have to come take a stab at my apartment next!
Cameron Barrus’ lighting desing was simple and effective, with just a few moments of misplaced focusing. The dusky venue lighting definitely set the mood at times. However, there could have been some better transitions between Patsy’s performances and Louise’s narrations. I’m also assuming Cameron designed the awesome small projections of location names on one wall, which were so flawless I absolutely assumed they were a permanent paint job (until they started changing)!
Finally, Emily Warwick’s costume design was orderly and well chosen. Each of Patsy’s costume changes were well warranted, and helped indicate the location, atmosphere, and period of the scene. Patsy’s opening look was a classic county western look, complete with bedazzling and fringe. And from there, I simply lost count of the myriads of dresses, skirt suits, and get ups Patsy had. All I can say is that each of them, aside from the final evening dress, fit Leblo very well and only ever added to the ambiance of a scene.
This show confirms everything that you want to believe about Patsy – she IS someone that would feel comfortable sitting at your kitchen table eating eggs and bacon with you at 2 in the morning. Enjoy a lovely story about friendship and some incredible live musicians by supporting local theatre and seeing Plaza Theatre Company’s production of ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE.
Plaza Theatre Company
305 S. Anglin St.
Cleburne, TX 76031
Plays through July 27th.
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30pm; Saturdays at 3:00 pm
Tickets range from $15-25.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to plaza-theatre.com or call their box office at 817.202.0600.