By Kay Kipling
Suppose you had a favorite recording star who one evening turned up in your kitchen, singing and dancing with you, and even spending the night in your kid’s bedroom. Hard to imagine today, when performers travel with full entourages (including bodyguards), but that’s exactly what happened more than 50 years ago with singer Patsy Cline and a fan named Louise Seger—and that’s the hook behind the two-character musical, Always…Patsy Cline, now onstage at the Manatee Players Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theatre.
Actually, Always…Patsy Cline has been performed several times in the area over the past few years, but the intimate setting of this small theater brings the action, and the feelings, even closer for the audience. The show opens with Cline (Alana Opie) singing a few of her hits before she meets up with Louise (Brittney Klepper), a Texas mom who’s a bit of a fireball, with lots of energy and determination. She puts that into play in service of Cline, whom she’d admired on television but never expected to see in person. When Cline performs at a club near Louise’s home, she’s on her own (no managers, no assistants, no publicity people—imagine that) and Louise takes her under her wing, even escorting her to an unscheduled interview at a local radio station.
There isn’t much else to the plot of the show, but there doesn’t need to be, as it’s a recollection of some special moments between the two women, and between us and Cline’s music. Opie doesn’t sound that much like Cline (who could?) but she is able to give her vocals a country twang and insert some heartfelt emotions into numbers like She’s Got You and Sweet Dreams, and the rapport between her and Klepper is a good one.
As for Klepper, she’s no quiet sidekick to the star here. She’s always moving, always engaging with the audience, and even with the band (it’s fun to watch her direct the drummer with her body swaying and her back to us). The band (dubbed the Bodacious Bobcats here) has a nice, easy way with old country songs like Blue Moon of Kentucky and Lovesick Blues, and that drummer (Paul Henry) and fellow musician Preston Boyd (who also directs the show) even get in a little bit of acting themselves.
Georgina Willmott’s costumes do a good job of taking us from Patsy’s early, countrified wear to more sophisticated togs later on. The atmosphere/set is minimal, but again, all that it needs to be to place us in the bar or Louise’s kitchen. All in all, Always…Patsy Cline is a pleasurable way to spend an evening.
The show continues through Oct. 6; for tickets call 748-5875 or go to manateeplayers.com.