Always ... Patsy Cline

TexARTS' tribute to the country legend is so good it's downright bodacious

Arts Review

Always ... Patsy Cline

Morris Theatre,

through Oct. 12

Running time:

2 hr, 10 min

TexARTS hasn't been around very long but long enough to produce a few large-cast musicals at the Paramount Theatre and to obtain support to open its own performance space in Lakeway, the Kam & James Morris Theater. TexARTS' latest, Always ... Patsy Cline, is the inaugural production of a season's worth of shows in its off-Broadway series, and while Ted Swindley's musical celebration of that icon of American popular music has seen more than one local staging, I'd be surprised if it's seen a more effective one than this.

Some might say the show is really a musical revue, and they'd have a good argument. In slightly more than two hours, no less than 25 full-length songs are presented, so there isn't a lot of time for much but the singing. The element that makes this a musical rather than a musical revue is the solid story that frames the songs. Louise Seger, a Cline fan from Houston, met the singer before she gained her greatest fame, and the two became fast friends, so much so that Cline spent the night at Seger's house before going on to her next concert. Eventually, they struck up an extended correspondence that lasted until Cline's untimely death, and the show revolves around these events.

In other words, it's all about Patsy and Louise; they're the only characters who appear. Patsy does most of the singing, Louise does most of the talking, and director Todd Dellinger managed to find two performers to fill the roles not just adequately but sensationally. Edie Elkjer, with her blue eye shadow, red button earrings, tight black jeans, and bolo tie that would fill a showcase, looks and talks like she stepped right out of the honky-tonks of which she is so fond. Her Texas drawl is so thick you could serve slices of it with habanero sauce. Elkjer handles her broadly comic role easily yet with energy and enthusiasm, and she plays her more dramatic moments with sensitivity and notable simplicity.

While Elkjer has so much fun that you can't help but have fun with her, it would not surprise me to discover that Dellinger chose the show because he knew he had Selena Rosanbalm to play Patsy. Sure, Rosanbalm wears wigs and make-up and a new costume practically every time she steps on the stage, but she looks so much like Cline you'd swear they were twins. That impression only strengthens when listening to Rosanbalm effortlessly fill the theatre with Cline standards such as "Walkin' After Midnight," "I Fall to Pieces," and "Crazy." And if you don't believe me, see the show, then check out clips of Cline on YouTube. I'd go so far as to say Rosanbalm has a stronger voice than Cline did, and that's saying a whole heap of a lot.

The show breathes professionalism, from the sixpiece Bodacious Bobcats Band to Dellinger's one-third kitchen, one-third Grand Ole Opry, one-third sparkly nightclub set to Matt Ludwick's flawless sound design to Lyn Koenning's seamless musical direction. For a first production in a new space, it's not just outstanding; it's downright bodacious. If you don't have a boat, a house on the lake, or a hankerin' to swim nekkid, I can't think of many things worth the drive to Lakeway, but folks, TexARTS' Always ... Patsy Cline is one of them.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Always ... Patsy Cline, TexARTS, Selena Rosanbalm, Edie Elkjer, Todd Dellinger, Lyn Koenning

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