Hear 'Patsy Cline' live at The Boom…'Always.'
“Always…Patsy Cline” were the words the legendary singer used to end her letters to her friend and fan, Louise Seger, a single mother in Houston, for the two years of their friendship. Meeting for only one night, the two women formed a deep connection and stayed in touch until Cline’s death in 1963. Directed by Brenda Williams, the production at The Boom of “Always…Patsy Cline” is a treat for the ears, gentle on the heart, and easy on the eye as well.
Playwright Ted Swindley used Cline’s letters to Seger and Seger’s own memories to create a show that is more than a revue and not quite a bio-play. In the production at The Boom in Oklahoma City, two talented women bring Cline and Seger to life for us.
Williams also plays Louise—a young mother with an ex-husband and a new boyfriend and children to deal with—who discovers Patsy Cline and falls madly in love with the rich, emotional depth of Cline’s voice. Eventually Louise jumps at the chance to hear Cline live, and the two women connect in a pre-show social setting that is utterly impossible today, and utterly true to the period. Williams portrayed Louise with verve and heart, giving us a woman who is fun and genuine.
Shelly Phelps plays Cline, and she reproduced Cline’s signature sound faithfully, delivering every song with great style and rich, throbbing contralto vocals. Phelps also gave us Cline’s sometimes brash and down-to-earth social mannerisms, her insecurities, and her deep faith in her future.
The story of this rich and unexpected friendship is told through Louise, who relates the arc, and embroidered by Cline’s music. Williams and Phelps delivered a thoroughly believable, deeply felt, and often funny performance. Although neither actress has a physique that immediately telegraphs her part, both embodied the women they play with authenticity and power. Within a very short space of time, Williams’ energy and the rich sounds of Cline channeled through Phelps transported the audience from a theatrical venue to a concert stage; they had no trouble applauding in recognition when she started a signature piece.
The live band is a delight to hear. Placed up and out of the way, they are still visible to the audience and they have a great sound. Connor Murphy, who served as musical director, was on keyboard, with Jason Hunt on bass, Aaron Marshall on drums, and Bart Varner switching between guitar and fiddle.
The Boom’s performance room is a very intimate space, and this show fits very well there. With the excellent food and bar service, the feeling is off being in a club where Cline is performing, rather than sitting in theatre watching a play. Also due to the small space, occasional issues with the sound system are more intrusive than they might be in a larger and more theatrical venue. On balance, the intimacy and cuisine are worth the occasional audio blip.
“Always…Patsy Cline” plays at The Boom, 2218 NW 39th Street, Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday nights through February 21. Dinner service starts at 6:30 and curtain time is 8:00. Call Ticketstorm at (866) 966-1777 for tickets and reservations.