MILL HALL - The title, "Always, Patsy Cline," refers to how the country-and-western singer always signed her letters.
Millbrook Playhouse signs off its Main Stage lineup with the popular final attraction having remaining 7:30 p.m. performances tonight through Sunday.
The musical is based upon the true life story of Patsy Cline and a Houston housewife Louise Seger, who first saw Cline on the Arthur Godfrey Show in 1957 and incessantly hounded a local deejay to play her records. The focus is Seger's reminiscences after the up-and-coming singer met her most avid fan while performing at a Houston club in 1961.
The Millbrook Playhouse presents “Always, Patsy Cline” at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Sunday.
An immediate and unlikely friendship was struck up, with Seger inviting Cline to sleep at her home before she flew off the next morning.
After sipping coffee, chatting away and sharing mutual concerns, the two exchanged addresses. Seger, who never expected to hear from Cline, received dozens of letters as well as telephone calls from her until she was killed in an airplane crash in 1983.
Cline was only 30 at the time of her death, and this two-woman show features more than two dozen of Cline's hits in a little over two hours.
"Always, Patsy Cline" is neither a full-fledged musical nor a Cline revue, but a string of her songs - ranging from plaintive ballads to good-time country tunes - interspersed with broad comical moments.
Courtney Simmons has the difficult task of playing the country western icon.
Although Simmons does not resemble Cline, she captures some of the country girl's incandescence when singing out with a big, clear voice. Although she doesn't offer a true impersonation, Simmon's portrayal was warmly received by Millbrook's opening night audience.
Lots of applause followed her renditions of Cline's most familiar hits: "I Fall To Pieces," "Walkin' After Midnight" and "Sweet Dreams," with the heartiest applause given for her signature tune "Crazy."
Written and directed by Ted Swindley, the play doesn't fully begin to explore the special relationship between Cline and Seger.
Part of the problem is that there is little dialogue for Cline to deliver, as the narration, broad jokes and comical gestures are all delivered by Seger.
So, the audience never gets to understand how Seger's initial hero worship evolved into friendship marked by mutual respect.
With her hair piled high, Sarah Michelle Cuc broadly plays Seger, although sometimes her gestures and gyrations distract the audience from attentively listening to some less familiar lyrics.
Still, Cuc makes Seger's character an audience pleaser, whether she's demonstrating her sexy dude car or luring a male patron onstage for a bit of hoofing.
Briskly directing is Johanna Pinzler, who coincidently appeared as Cline in Millbrook's 2001 production. If the director had urged Cuc to exercise a bit of restraint, the heartfelt message might more have easier come through.
Simple staging on multi-leveled platforms has Seger's kitchen table and a variety of microphones as the only set pieces. But that leaves lots of room on stage for Music Director Bill Brown to lead the six-piece band.
Seger has no costume changes, and although Cline is initially attired in down home duds and simple cotton dresses, she doesn't, even as her popularity grows, wear any more glamourous outfits, except a long white gown in one of the final numbers.
There are two announced encores, including the rousing "Bill Bailey," which makes the audience clap their hands and stomp their feet.
So, despite some shortcomings, country and western fans may go "Crazy" over "Always, Patsy Cline."
Fun and good time feelings abound in this final Mainstage production which closes out Millbrook's historic 50th year with a hoot and a holler.
For more information, call 748-8083 or visit wwwmillbrookplay house.org.