MSMT opens with Always ... Patsy Cline

Posted Thursday, June 8, 2017 in Culture

MSMT opens with Always ... Patsy Cline

Christine Mild as Patsy Cline. Always...Patsy Cline. Maine State Music Theatre. Photo by Kinectiv.

Maine State Music Theatre reprised "Always ... Patsy Cline" as its opening musical for the 2017 season. This year, Christine Mild sang the title role, and her voice was so perfect, one might think one had jumped back in time 55 years and attended a Patsy Cline concert.

In what is essentially a one-woman show, Mild stayed in excellent voice throughout the longish (2 1/2 hour) performance. The only other character, Louise, played by veteran Charis Leos, told the story of Cline's brief career in a running bit of comic relief.  Cline's song ended in tragedy in 1963 when her plane went down and she was killed at the age of 30.

A divorced mother of two small children, Louise tells how she heard Cline for the first time on a show her children watched in the morning, and soon she was enamoured of Cline's voice. Begging a local disk jockey to play her records, she learned that Cline was coming to a honky-tonk in Houston, where she went with her boyfriend and boss to hear her. She met Cline in person and the two women became friends, and Louise then tells the rest of Cline's story -- her rise to greater stardom, and how she learned Cline had died.

All the other characters -- Louise's disk jockey friend, her boss, her husband and then her boyfriend, and her children, are invisible. The band, which was excellent, served as more of a backdrop than an actual band, as Cline and Louise never really interact with them either, despite sharing a stage for the entire production.

Mild's strong voice makes the show, which is much more like a concert than a typical musical theater production. Indeed, the show is a vehicle for her voice and the Cline songbook. For someone who loves early honky-tonk music or Patsy Cline in particular, this is a fabulous production. It is amazing to see someone who can belt out songs for two hours or more without any supporting singers.

Leos is hysterically funny, as she always is, playing to the crowd easily with ad libbed conversations in the person of Louise.

Unfortunately, with only Leos' humor-filled patter to round things out, the story is veil-thin. If you are  hoping to see a story about Patsy Cline's life, loves, and heartbreaks, this isn't it. Such things are alluded to only through Leos' commentary and Cline's songs.

Such a story is certainly possible -- MSMT produced "Buddy, the Buddy Holly Story" a number of years ago, which followed Holly and his band's meteoric rise to fame and its tragic end, while using Holly's songs and those of other musicians at the time. The characters were well-rounded out and likeable. Holly's wife's fear of losing her husband in a plane crash was tenderly rendered.

By contrast, Always ... Patsy Cline is much more like attending a concert.

Still, hearing Mild's extraordinary voice in person is well worth the price of admission. For ticket information or to purchase tickets, visit msmt.org .

blog comments powered by Disqus