By John Horan Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENSON -- On the road again, Wayside Theatre presents a spirited tribute to local country singing legend Patsy Cline at Historic Jordan Springs.
"Always ... Patsy Cline" is a rollicking songfest with 27 vocals ably performed by Nancy O'Bryan as "Patsy," backed by a topflight band.
The show, which is licensed by Cline's family and estate, is performed in the Jordan Springs ballroom, whose walls and ceiling are swathed in a surfeit of satin that makes the audience feel like it's ensconced in a lavish gift box.
The production, billed as "Historic Jordan Springs Dinner Theatre," is also sponsored by the Celebrating Patsy Cline Committee, the local group that is restoring her home on South Kent Street and planning a museum in her honor. Cline memorabilia are on display in a room at Jordan Springs.
O'Bryan does an admirable job channeling the Winchester native whose soulful singing propelled her brief, meteoric career, tragically abbreviated by her death in a plane crash in 1963 at age 30.
Close to a Cline clone, O'Bryan belts out the up-tempo numbers and plumbs the sensitive depths of the ballads. She boasts a rich, often brassy, tone, a wide vocal range and has also mastered the mannerisms -- the vocal catches and wails -- that made Cline's singing distinctive.
The classics -- "Crazy," "Sweet Dreams," "She's Got You," "Walkin' After Midnight," "I Fall to Pieces" and more -- are all there, performed with style and spirit, supplemented by the talented country quintet.
When the music stops, though, "Always ... Patsy Cline" becomes labored. Playwright Ted Swindley's offering is not nearly as dramatically compelling as "A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline," which Wayside presented six years ago.
Swindley tells Cline's story through the eyes of Louise, a Houston housewife who idolizes the singer, meets her at a club date and strikes up a lasting, pen-pal friendship.
While Story mostly just sings, Lori Staley as Louise has the burden of carrying the spoken part of "Always." She strives mightily to enliven Swindley's prosaic script, clowning with the band, interacting with the audience, which is seated at round tables, and even coaxing a man to dance, but it is a tedious exercise compared with the lively music.
Warner Crocker directs. In contrast to the plush ambiance, Til Turner supplies a plain kitchen setting on the bandstand and a roadhouse bar on one side of the floor. Paul M. Callahan provides the lighting. Tamara M. Carruthers dresses O'Bryan in Cline's signature, bright, fringey outfits.
"Always ... Patsy Cline" continues through Aug. 1. A meal precedes each performance, but people can also attend only the show. Tickets are available at 667-7744 or at www.historicjordansprings.com.