Friday night, there were a lot of Patsy Cline fans enjoying award-winning actresses Sally Struthers and Carter Calvert in the North Carolina Theatre‘s production of Always… Patsy Cline, which opened on Jan. 20th in Raleigh’s A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater. It is not surprising that the show appeals to Cline’s loyal fans, but I urge you to see this wonderful production even if you have never heard a single song by the legendary country singer — say, for instance, you have been living on a remote island because you were shipwrecked as a child and were only recently rescued. I promise that even if you are not a current fan, you will leave the theater feeling happier than when you arrived.
Always… Patsy Cline is a hard show to categorize: It is a comedy that ends with a tragedy, a musical memory, more than a musical, and the ultimate fan fantasy made reality. But if I must categorize, I would say that Always… Patsy Cline is a love story. It is about the childlike love that we bear for our heroes, the sustaining love of friendship, and the unrequited love that never frees us when we lose someone way before their time.
The show lets us live vicariously through Louise Seger, a superfan who meets her idol, and gets to spend the ultimate girl’s night out with a woman who turns out to be a kindred spirit. “She told me about her life, her hopes, her dreams. We discussed loves lost, loves found, loves yet to be,” Seger once told Country Weekly Magazine. Always… Patsy Cline depicts the dream scenario that we have all imagined: What would happen if we met our idol and they liked us just as much as we liked them?
This poignant drama is filled with more laugh-out-loud moments than I could count. Sally Struthers is magnificent as the wisecracking, no-nonsense country girl Louise Seger. At nearly 70, Struthers is a dynamo onstage and is at her flirty, funny best.
Struthers’ character breaks the Fourth Wall to interact with the audience throughout the show. She feels like that wild, wicked friend from high school who got you into all kinds of trouble, but was always there for you.
The elderly gentleman sitting next to me told me that he’d seen Patsy Cline in concert, “[A]nd if you close your eyes, she sounds just like her!” Having only heard recordings myself, I thought Calvert sounded even better.
When Calvert sings Cline’s most famous song, “Crazy” (written by Willie Nelson!), the audience was spellbound. There is a depth and vitality to her voice that felt empowering. I think Cline, an early feminist in an industry not known for its kindness to women, would definitely approve.
Director Guy Stroman and music director McCrae Hardy (who is also the bandleader in the show) have done some really subtle things with this play that drives the story beautifully. I love, love, love the scene in which Patsy and Louise are cooking and singing together in her home. It starts out comic; but Struthers vocals get stronger; and at the end, the two women sing in beautiful harmony with the progress of the song mirroring their relationship.
The set is divided in a triptych fashion, with a live band who are characters in the show as well as backup for Patsy on the main part, Louise’s fabulously retro kitchen and a honky tonk on the other that will bring back some memories for all y’all with misspent youths.
The costumes range from fun to downright breathtaking. You see Patsy evolve from a girl in homemade cowgirl dresses, to a glamorous woman in glittering couture. There are 27 songs performed in this show and probably as many costume changes, so you’re in for a visual treat as well as an aural one.
Louise and Patsy remained friends and corresponded until the singer’s untimely death in an airplane crash in 1963, at the age of 30; and even though we know we are going to get our hearts broken at the end of the show, NCT’s presentation of Always… Patsy Cline is a funny, hopeful, and beautiful journey.
To read more about the show, check out this very fine article written by my colleague: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/01/sally-struthers-and-carter-calvert-will-star-in-ted-swindleys-1997-off-broadway-hit-always-patsy-cline-on-jan-20-29-at-nct/.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 20th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Stage Tube: http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/STAGE-TUBE-Watch-Highlights-of-Carter-Calvert-and-Sally-Struthers-in-NC-Theatres-ALWAYS-PATSY-CLINE-20170120 and Jan. 19th BWW TV preview by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-North-Carolina-Theatres-ALWAYSPATSY-CLINE-20170119; and Dec. 31st Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Mary Cornatzer: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article123511139.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 20th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/01/sally-struthers-and-carter-calvert-will-star-in-ted-swindleys-1997-off-broadway-hit-always-patsy-cline-on-jan-20-29-at-nct/.)
The North Carolina Theatre presents ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE, starring Sally Struthers and Carter Calvert, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24-27, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 and 29 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/803430.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gFt5WvVTe8.
2016-17 NCT SEASON: http://nctheatre.com/show-season/201516-season.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
Patsy Cline (country-and-western singer, 1932-63): http://countrymusichalloffame.org/full-list-of-inductees/view/patsy-cline (Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum), http://www.patsyclinemuseum.com/ (Patsy Cline Museum), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patsy_Cline (Wikipedia).
Always… Patsy Cline (1988 Houston and 1997 Off-Broadway play with music): http://www.alwayspatsycline.net/ (official website), http://www.tedswindleyproductions.com/album/always-patsy-cline/ (Ted Swindley Productions page), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/4518 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patsy_Cline#Plays_and_musicals (Wikipedia).
The Script: https://www.scribd.com/doc/223412206/Always-Patsy-Cline-Script (Scribd.).
Study Guide: https://www.bard.org/study-guides/always-patsy-cline-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Ted Swindley (playwright): http://www.tedswindleyproductions.com/bio.html (Ted Swindley Productions), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/34699 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/tedswindleyproductions/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/ted_swindley (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stages_Repertory_Theatre#History (Wikipedia).
Guy Stroman (Terrell, TX-born New York director): http://guystroman.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/guy-stroman-92974 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0834890/ (Internet Movie Database).
Nicole Noel is a former U.S. Army journalist-turned-Technical Knowledge Manger, with a love for the arts. At age seven, she wrote her first story on the wall of her basement after being told the family might have to move: “There once was a girl named Nicole who had a dog named Rat and they lived in this house.” She liked the way that you could capture a moment in a sentence, and still does. These days Nicole lives with her daughter, and a dog named Buffy, in a house in Fuquay-Varina. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.