“Always…Patsy Cline” looks to be the most totally successful musical ever to play St. Louis. It’s simplicity belies it effectiveness. Though anything but ostentatious, this is the little musical that can, primarily because of two stellar performers and songs that have far outlived the life of the artist who sang them.
The story is based on real events. A divorced single Mom in Houston, Louise Seger, is an avid Patsy Cline fan who accidentally meets Cline when she buys tickets for one of her concerts and gets there way too early. The year is 1961. Their fast friendship leads to a lot of commiserating about their lives and their marriages. After their meeting, their friendship was spurred by a steady steam of correspondence right up to the time of Cline’s death in a plane crash. Cline always ended her letters with, “Always…Patsy Cline.”
Zoe Vonder Haar as Louise Seger carries a lot of the evening. She befriends the audience in much the same chatty way Seger befriended Cline. The humor and style is all Texan. The laughs are rich and colorful. Seger’s character gets into the audience. Literally.
Jacqueline Petroccia as Patsy Cline is one of over a dozen women to play this role outside St. Louis, but I doubt many, if any, matched her abilities. Cline had a broad vocal range and lots of nuances when she performed, and Petroccia has captured them all in the over two dozen numbers she sings. Patsy Cline had real compassion and understanding as a person and a vocalist, and it is all preserved and presented beautifully in Stage’s production.
Stage’s went to considerable expense to redesign the stage at The West Port Playhouse and it’s a highly laudable effort. This space is even better for “Always…Patsy Cline” than The Robert Reim Theater in Kirkwood, more intimate and effective. Zoe Vonder Haar gets the hook into the audience early and Jacqueline Petroccia seals the evening with a performance that is just like Patsy Cline’s music, heart-to-heart.