ALWAYS...PATSY CLINEBy Ted Swindley
Plaza Theatre Company
Director –Jay Lewis
Music Director—Parker Barrus
Set Designer—JaceSon P. Barrus
Lighting Designer—Cameron Barrus
Sound Designer –Parker Barrus and Cameron Barrus
Costume Designer – Tina Barrus
Patsy Cline—Susan Metzger
Louise Seger—Shauna Lewis
The Texas Bob Cats:
Piano—Cheri Dee Mega
Electric Guitar—Parker Barrus
Reviewed Performance: 7/8/2017
Reviewed by Amanda Edwards, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
“Always…Patsy Cline,” now on stage at Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne, Texas is an agreeable homage to one of those figures—country music’s foremost female vocalist, killed in a plane crash at age 30. “Always…Patsy Cline” resides somewhere between being a full-blown stage musical and a concert of her greatest hits.
There is the story (of sorts), written by Ted Swindley and based on true events that gives the play some dramatic structure: In 1961, Houston housewife Louise Seger and a group of her friends show up early to hear Patsy Cline in a solo concert. By chance, the singer arrives early as well and strikes up a conversation with Seger. That chance encounter leads to Seger inviting Cline—who is traveling alone—to join her for bacon and eggs at her house. (That would never happen today!)
The two women develop a friendship that results in an exchange of letters over the next two years, right up to the plane crash that claimed the lives of Cline, and other in her entourage. The two-act play moves back and forth in time, from the first moment Seger heard Cline’s voice on the radio to the singer’s death.
Director Jay Lewis brought together a fantastic duo of talented women who brought life and character to these two women on stage. From the exceptional vocal talent of Susan Metzger (Patsy Cline) to the impressive comedic talents of Shauna Lewis (Louise Seger), both women truly complimented each other, and formed a friendship and bond on stage that tells the true story of Cline and Seger’s brief in person friendship that turned into a pen-pal camaraderie for the next couple of years.
The staging was wonderful. I am always impressed by the way the Plaza Theatre Company is able to change and transform their theatre-in-the-round space to fit the needs of the production, while also giving creativity, and artistic license to the designers. In this production, set designer JaceSon P. Barrus is successful in allowing the space to be representative of multiple locations within the story. From the spectacular stage at the Grand Ol’ Opry to the humble kitchen in Louise’s home in Houston, Mr. Barrus successfully brings the audience back in time, and uses the space of the Plaza Theatre Company with creativity.
Tina Barrus designed costumes that were not only appropriate to the 1950’s and early 60’s, but had a great attention to detail. There was not much in the variety of Louise’s costumes, but Patsy’s costumes were as dramatic and colorful as her personality on stage. From the quintessential western fringe of the early 1960’s at the Grand Ol’ Opry to the sparkly and elegant performance frocks from the mid to late 1950’s, Ms. Barrus certainly delivers in the role of costumer. Her costumes were full of detail and texture, and left me in awe each time Patsy would make an appearance on stage.
Susan Metzger was extraordinary in the role of Patsy Cline. Ms. Metzger delivered with a strong vocal presence, and was very charismatic on stage. Mr. Metzger delivered a spot on, and honest portrayal of Ms. Patsy Cline, the innovator of the female “Nashville” Country sound. Not only did Metzger have the look of Patsy Cline, but her performance was as close as I will ever get to seeing and experiencing a live concert of Ms. Cline during the height of her short career. It was evident to me that Ms. Metzger was having fun on stage in this production, and certainly completed her research of the sound, the attitude and the confidence of Patsy Cline. Ms. Metzger was charming on stage, and overall, delivered a fantastic performance. Ms. Metzger truly reminded me of Patsy Cline (and I cannot express this enough) take the opportunity to see her in this role. I guarantee it will be the closest that you will ever get to seeing and hearing Patsy Cline perform ever again-if even for a brief time.
Shauna Lewis was phenomenal in the role of Louise Seger. Through comedic delivery, and a likeable on-stage persona, Ms. Lewis brought a huge element of humor to this role, and successfully portrayed the Houston housewife who befriended Ms. Cline during a chance meeting at a performance at The Esquire Ballroom in Houston, in the late 1950’s. Ms. Lewis was the epitome of what I would expect to see in a “stereotypical” Texas housewife. Ms. Lewis had some lovely interaction and chemistry with Ms. Metzger, and both women did a fabulous job of carrying the performance on stage. Their charisma and enthusiasm on stage was nearly constant, and their performance was very believable. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to carry a performance, especially with only two actresses on stage. Ms. Metzger and Ms. Lewis did a wonderful job on stage.
This production of Always…Patsy Cline is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a wonderful musical experience at the theatre. From the moment the lights go down, and the familiar songbook is unveiled, you will be drawn into the story. If you never had the opportunity to hear Patsy Cline live, this will be as close as you are going to get to the chance. Hurry to Cleburne, Texas and to the Plaza Theatre Company, if you miss “Always…Patsy Cline,” you will be “crazy and feeling so blue.”
Plaza Theatre Company, 111 S Main St, Cleburne, TX 76033
Plays through July 29th.
Thursday-Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Tickets are $15.00 and $14.00 for seniors 65+, Students (high school/college) are $14.00, and children (12 and under) are $13.00.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.plaza-theatre.com or call their box office at 817-202-0600.