By Dale King
Not all of us remember Patsy Cline, the country vocalist whose powerful voice, often measured in tearful tones, vocalized poignant stories in song. But we know her music, even 58 years after she died in a plane crash while returning to her home in Nashville the same year John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Her legacy of tunes is still golden, even in the 21st century. A musical stage show licensed by the family and estate of Patsy Cline continues to travel the nation, Canada and the U.K, and this delightful production, Always… Patsy Cline, is now playing at the Lake Worth Playhouse.
The show, crafted by author/director Ted Swindley, is more than just music. The show is based on a true story about Cline’s friendship with a fan from Houston named Louise Seger, who befriended the up-and-coming star at a Texas honky-tonk in 1961 and continued corresponding with Cline until her death.
The title was inspired by the manner the singer used to conclude each letter, “Love always, Patsy Cline.”
Lake Worth Playhouse has masterfully cast a pair of practically perfect performers in this two-woman show that is excellently buoyed musically by a tuneful trio headed by Roger Blankenship on keyboards, Hunter Isbell on bass guitar and Julie Jacobs on drums. Everyone knows a show with a live band gets a major league thumbs-up.
The musicians were all appropriately masked. Blankenship also wore a plastic face cover – and the group seemed to meet the 6-feet-apart rule. Ditto for everyone in the audience, who sang, clapped and foot-stomped when they recognized or enjoyed a tune.
Portraying Patsy Cline is Jamie Mattocks, whose voice rocked the rafters of the ancient theater, then slid down low for the legendary singer’s soulful songs. Mattocks comes with heaps of creds, including a musical theater degree from the New World Conservatory in Miami and a roster of appearances from here to Colorado, including the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Adrienne Arsht Center and the Hard Rock Live.
Tracy Lee Schneider fleshes out the character of Seger, the single mom from Houston who hosted the singer at her home for a memorable evening, which included an early morning appearance on a local radio show. Tracy polished her abilities at Florida Atlantic University and left the Boca campus to become a performer, choreographer, dance and drama teacher.
Schneider plays Louise as a little bit country but keeps her above the hick level. Her characterization is totally Texas, from her Western boots to her tight slacks “that fit just like a glove,” she says while giving her booty a wiggle.
Having first heard Cline on The Arthur Godfrey Show in 1957, Seger became an immediate fan, and she constantly hounded the local disc jockey to play Cline’s records.
In 1961, when Cline went to Houston for a show, Seger and her buddies arrived about an hour-and-a-half early and, by coincidence, met Cline, who was traveling alone. The two women struck up a rapport that was to culminate in Cline spending the night at Seger’s house — a relationship that lasted until the performer’s untimely passing.
Louise’s bantering juxtaposes well with Cline’s songs, which run from early entries like “Honky Tonk Merry-Go-Round” to the more substantial “I Fall to Pieces,” “Walkin’ after Midnight” and “Sweet Dreams,” among others.
Jamie hits her peak – and stays there – with “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” the Hank Williams tune. “Three Cigarettes in an Ash Tray” – sung at Louise’s kitchen table as both ladies talk about their romantic foibles, is excellent, certainly well within the range of Patsy’s tear-jerker style.
Perhaps the best-received song was “Crazy.” Blankenship was only a few piano notes into the opening when the audience recognized it, and applauded for joy.
Jamie does well with the up-tempo songs – “San Antonio Rose” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” – and also the slower, expressive pieces – “She’s Got You” and “Faded Love.”
The show combines humor, sadness and reality. It offers followers who remember Cline while she was alive a chance to look back while giving new devotees an idea of what seeing her was like and what she meant to her original adherents.
Artistic Director Daniel Eilola helms the show with ease. And costume designer Jill Williams deserves a big hand for putting together the many outfits – casual and elegant— that Jamie wears throughout.
Always…. Patsy Cline is playing through Jan. 24 at the Lake Worth Playhouse, 713 Lake Ave., Lake Worth Beach. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 561-586-6410 or visiting www.lakeworthplayhouse.org.