Infinity Theatre’s Always ... Patsy Cline
Country music’s most popular woman singer still awesome after all these years
Always … Patsy Cline offers remarkable singing and terrific acting in the service of country legend.
Patsy Cline met ardent fan Louise Seger at a Houston concert in 1961. A brash sort, Louise introduced herself and invited Patsy to her home for a late-night breakfast. The meal turned into an overnight stay and that stay turned into several years of correspondences always signed by Patsy with the closing that gives this show its title.
I wish the story gave us as much.
Jenny Lee Stern as Patsy Cline is utterly convincing, (this is her third time in the role), belting and crooning her way through 27 of Cline’s memorable songs. The achievement is notable as Cline charted new ways to present her music, blending styles in untraditional ways. Costumer Kurt Alger provides dozens of dazzling costume changes that reflect how Cline also broke fashion tradition for female country singers.
Robin Baxter as Louise Seger matches Stern’s musical flair with her own acting and comedic flair. To Louise falls the duty of narrating how she came to become friends with a country music superstar. Being told what happened rather than seeing it acted out could become tedious, but Baxter is a Carol Burnett/Ethel Merman blend who simply charms all night long. The conventional fourth wall of theatre is broken as Seger speaks directly to you, and you become an active participant in the show.
Infinity Theatre’s sound system, which proved problematic last year, is now superb. A band led by musical director Tim Rosser is on stage throughout the show. Their excellent musicality can now be heard cleanly and clearly as a strong backdrop to Stern’s vocals.
Director and east Texan Chan Harris brings authenticity to the characters and uses a clever set design by Anshuman Bhatia to showcase a concert stage, suburban living room, kitchen and seven-piece band all at the same time. The action flows seamlessly through the space. My only complaint is that so many patterns in the wallpapers, upholstery, lattice and lace tried to distract from the performers. The two women overpowered their visual competition.
But playwright Ted Swindley falls short in his ode to a singer who changed the way women were seen in the music industry and an artist whose impact continues to this day. Louise tells the story of a friendship and Patsy sings her beloved songs. But in only a handful of moments do the two actors speak to each other.
Don’t go to see this play for insight into Patsy Cline’s life.
Do go to see the joyful singing talent that Infinity Theatre is becoming known for, to see bravura comedic acting that can turn on dime into heartbreaking sorrow and to hear 27 of the great songs Patsy Cline made memorable with her unique voice.