Long before show business personalities had to worry about stalkers, fledgling country music star-to-be Patsy Cline forged a friendship with an emotionally needy Texas divorcee. The latter, a bubbly redhead named Louise Seger, became enamored of Cline’s twangy song stylings, heard on the radio and seen on television, never guessing where her musical obsession might lead.
When she learns that Cline is coming to perform in Houston, Louise’s hometown, she is instantly determined to cozy up to her idol. Improbably, but just go along with it, Louise manages to gain Cline better working arrangements at the club where she is appearing, then serves as her human metronome, keeping the house band at the correct tempo. Later she brings Cline home with her, cooking her breakfast and then dragging her to the local country radio station for an impromptu interview.
That whirlwind day is the start of a lifelong friendship between Patsy and Louise. Well, at least a three-year-long friendship until – spoiler alert! – Cline is killed in an airplane crash at the age of 30.
That is how playwright Ted Swindley tells it in Always … Patsy Cline, a reality-based yarn chock-full of Cline’s song hits, an economical two-hander that has been wildly popular on the regional stage circuit and off-Broadway since it premiered in 1988.
At The Wick in Boca Raton, the division of labor is distinct. As Cline, Terri Dixon sings some two dozen country numbers from the star’s songbook. And in between them, Lourelene Snedeker (Seger) narrates the tale of their relationship. It works, but you will probably find yourself wishing that Dixon had some dialogue that told us how Cline felt about her self-appointed number one fan.
On the other hand, those who know what an accomplished vocalist Snedeker is – she won The Wick’s first Carbonell Award for playing the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music – will want her to have more opportunities to sing. Oh well; you can’t have everything.
Dixon has played Cline before and she certainly has the impersonation down pat. She handles all of her hits – “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and, of course, “Crazy” – with full-throated skill, as well as the occasional semi-yodel, growl and verbal caress.
Her half of the show makes a dandy concert, but it is Snedeker who turns it into a theatrical event. As Seger gains proximity to Cline, she grows in self-confidence and during the Houston club date, she bounces about the stage-within-a-stage with attention-grabbing glee. The actress playing Seger is often overshadowed by Cline, but someone forgot to tell Snedeker.
Caryl Fantel conducts a frisky six-piece band – dubbed The Bodacious Bobcats – which adds so much to the production, in contrast to The Wick’s usual recorded tracks. Dom Ruggiero gets credit for the confident direction, though he was already way ahead of the game after casting his two performers.
Always … Patsy Cline marks the end of The Wick’s sixth season, a period in which the company’s artistic growth has been undeniable. While not as complex or challenging as Annie, Funny Girl and Crazy for You – a triple play of recent winners – this Patsy Cline is, in its own way, just as satisfying.
ALWAYS … PATSY CLINE, The Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Sunday, May 19. $75-$85. Call 561-995-2333 or visit thewick.org.