Make us your home page
Instagram

Review: Stage West delivers near-perfect look at the life of Patsy Cline

Kerri Lalane, left, plays the role of Patsy, and Emily Nettnin is Louise, in Always ... Patsy Cline at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill. The show runs through May 21.

Carol Ballard | Special to the Times

Kerri Lalane, left, plays the role of Patsy, and Emily Nettnin is Louise, in Always ... Patsy Cline at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill. The show runs through May 21.

As we might say in Texas, the land of my birth, Always … Patsy Cline, as done by Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill, is "pert near perfick."

It's a look into the all-too-brief life of late 1950s and '60s country-pop singer Patsy Cline, as told by her real-life friend, Louise Seger, a good old gal from Houston who took Patsy under her wing after they met at the legendary Esquire Ballroom north of the city and Louise took Patsy home for some bacon, eggs and late-night girl talk about their good kids and bad husbands.

It features 27 of Patsy's best-known and best-loved songs, including I Fall to Pieces, Walkin' After Midnight and Crazy, with some rock and gospel thrown in for good measure.

The heart of the show, of course, is those songs, and stage newcomer Kerri Lalane is simply astounding doing them. She's a professional rock singer. But her silky smooth voice has the depth and heartbreaking emotion that Patsy herself had, plus the distinctive nuances that set Patsy apart — the sometimes hesitant phrasing, the little tremolos, the soft "catch" and a little back-beat as her career progressed, the outlaw sound made famous by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and the dawning of the Nashville Sound that is more pop than traditional country.

Lalane captures all that and more. As the show progresses, so does Lalane/Patsy's style evolve, going from pure country to the once-reviled, now treasured pop/country beloved by almost all ages and audiences. It's a blessing that the on-stage band has only five pieces, because it spares the audience the lush, overproduced sounds of Patsy's later recordings, leaving the pure sound of her voice and the words of songwriters like Nelson (Crazy), Bob Wills (San Antonio Rose), Hank Cochran (She's Got You), Bill Monroe (Blue Moon of Kentucky) and even Cole Porter (True Love).

The soul of the show, though, is the warm relationship between Virginia-born Patsy and Mississippi-born, Texas transplant Louise (played with gusto by the brilliant Emily Nettnin, herself a professional performer and theater instructor). Nettnin's Louise has the swagger and inflection of the mix of Mississippi and Texas you would expect (never mind that the real Louise was rather refined and always objected to the way she was portrayed in the show). Whatever, it makes for good theater, and that's what writer Ted Swindley was aiming for and what he got.

Nettnin's physical humor and easygoing rapport with the audience enhances the somewhat sketchy story and underscores Patsy's development from shy singer to a confident, mature superstar in a relatively short period of time.

Director Ellen Hutt gets the best from her two leads, and music director Carol Ballard captures the laid-back tempo of Patsy's ballads, despite the fact that fiddle player Andrew Sterlacci was called away on business and had a rather tentative substitute at the last minute. Eileen Bernard and Kathy Capelle's costumes perfectly re-create the many styles Patsy favored, from the signature red satin, white fringed cowgirl outfit to the sparkling sequin- and crystal-covered gowns she so loved.

The one letdown was an overly long music bridge at the conclusion of the show that seems to take the hats and whistles out of the revved-up audience before the stars reappear for curtain calls and a couple of encores. That may be in the script. But it took the air out of a poignant ending that would have been more satisfying if it were followed by quicker, upbeat bows, patter and encores.

That said, Always … Patsy Cline is a warm, satisfying look at little-known part of the singer's offstage life, done to near perfection by the performers at Stage West.

>>If you go

Always … Patsy Cline, a musical, weekends through May 21 at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. May 12, 13 and 19 and at 2 p.m. May 14, 20 and 21. Tickets are $25, reserved seating. Call (352) 683-5113.

Review: Stage West delivers near-perfect look at the life of Patsy Cline 05/12/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 5:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.

    Travel

    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  2. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game

    Attractions

    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  3. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground

    Blogs

    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23

    Events

    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22

    Events

    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/pvidela@bradenton.com 12/20/07