ALWAYS … PATSY CLINE at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center


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When country music producers decided to try and appeal to pop audiences sixty years ago, the primary recipient of this shift to more accessible sound was Patsy Cline, a brutal, prisoner-less roadhouse singer with a voice that could melt the rockiest barfly in his hometown of Winchester, Virginia. Her meteoric rise to the top of the country charts from 1957 marked the start of a whirlwind career that made her the queen of Nashville Sound, as music was called. That is, until his tragic death at the age of 30 in a plane crash in March 1963, a shocking event that made his nation of fans cry.

Since then, Patsy Cline’s records have continued to sell. The lush country music she sang has faded away, but Cline’s appeal continues to attract new listeners. The Decca album “Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits”, released in 1967, sold ten million copies in 2005. In 1998, the playwright Ted swindley created “Always … Patsy Cline“, a jukebox musical celebrating Cline’s music that revolves around the singer’s friendship with Louise Seger, a housewife from Houston who befriended Cline in 1961 after they met in a honky. -tonk from Texas. Seger and Cline kept in touch with a series of letters they wrote to each other, each letter from Cline ending with the phrase “Love Always … Patsy Cline. “

The musical, which runs at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center through December 19, stars two notable performers: Michele McRae as Cline and Kathleen Silverman as Seger. Florida-born McRae has appeared in a number of musicals, but her portrayal of Cline is breathtaking. In addition to his physical resemblance to Cline, McRae has done his homework, adopting, without imitating, Cline’s distinctive vocal ways so perfectly that the effect is magical.

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Michele McRae as Patsy Cline (courtesy Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center)

McRae knows all of Cline’s moods, from exuberant early rockabilly hits like “Gotta Lot of Rhythm” to his sultry recordings of Don Gibson‘s “Sweet Dreams” and Willie nelson‘s “Crazy”. Cline was a stylist, able to reframe artist songs, like Hank williams‘Your cheating heart’ and Bob wills‘”San Antonio Rose” in his own voice. It didn’t matter if the song was a country standard or Cole porterA heartbreakingly beautiful “True Love”, Cline marked everyone with their own unique style. “Always … Patsy Clinenot only features Cline’s familiar hits, but Swindley dove into Cline’s catalog as well, invoking underrated songs like the ‘If I Could See the World’ waltz / ballad and ‘Three cigarettes in an ashtray’.

Join McRae is the character actress Kathleen silverman, who enjoys portraying colorful figures like Louise Seger. Sporting a beehive hairstyle, pants and a ‘kiss my grain’ accent, Silverman poses as a joking Minnie Pearl, reading the letters the ‘girlfriends’ sent to each other and remembering their friendship, even singing harmony with McRae on Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky”.

Despite the brilliance of McRae and Silverman’s performance, the series doesn’t tell us anything about Cline’s personality, how she mentored and served as a surrogate big sister to a 19-year-old contender. loretta lynn, about her tumultuous love affair with her second husband, Charlie Dick, or the details of a traumatic car crash in 1961, a head-on collision that left her hospitalized for a month. For the rest of her short life, Cline hid the facial scars sustained in the crash by wearing wigs, makeup and bandanas during performances.

The show features period costumes that complement the illusion, beautifully designed by Ken Patton, who drew inspiration from photographs of Cline from record album covers, publicity footage, and film appearances. A quartet of musicians calling themselves the Bodacious Bobcats, supported Cline throughout the performance. The arrangements are simple, no-frills by stellar sidemen like Nashville studio mainstays Grady Martin or Hank Garland, who performed on Cline’s Decca sessions, although pianist Paul Duffy does a good job of portraying the piano style. distinctive Owen Bradley. Although Cline used traditional country instruments such as the violin and steel guitar on their early records, the band on stage only included guitar (Gabe Gonzalez), bass (John Brinkman), and drums ( Adam Kuns). The print program credits violinist Ray Dean Mize, who was absent due to illness the day we saw the show.

Although this is not a biography, “Always … Patsy Cline“fulfills its purpose of bringing to life one of the most distinctive voices in country music. And for that, we thank you.

Always … Patsy Cline“plays until December 19 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. For tickets, visit www.simi-arts.org.

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