Creative Cauldron has chosen an innovative way to bring this favorite jukebox musical, “Always…Patsy Cline” (created and originally directed by Ted Swindley), to life. Each of the four weeks the show is playing (outdoors in Cherry Hill Park in Falls Church, VA), a different triple threat will take over the role of Patsy. I had the opportunity to see Candice Shedd-Thompson’s interpretation of Patsy Cline last night. She was magnificent. Her voice was throaty, haunting, and slid up and down the scales with ease. This was a Patsy with some mileage, regrets, and humor.
This show is a truly delightful way to start the summer. Go see this show. It’s lovely.
Erin Granfield as her fan, Louise Seger, is her equal. This is an actor who responds to music with her entire body and is also seriously funny and infectious in her joy. The play may be a showcase for 20 plus songs sung by Patsy Cline, but it’s Louise who humanizes her and helps us glimpse the woman behind the songs.
From the moment we meet Louise as she recounts the first time she heard Patsy’s voice on the radio in her hometown outside of Houston and was knocked sideways by it to Patsy’s tragic loss at age 30 in a plane crash, we are on Louise’s side. She doesn’t idolize the woman at first, she idolizes the voice. When she gets the chance to see her in person and actually introduces herself to Patsy, we see the connection between the women. This connection, through letters, lasted more than two years until the singer’s death and was fueled by humor and honesty.
As this week’s Patsy, Shedd-Thompson is a marvel. She channels that ability the singer had to make you feel she was singing just to you, and that she understood. You also catch a fleeting glimpse of how hard life is on the road. It isn’t that glamorous, and illustrates the havoc of being a woman with such talent, dealing with a husband of the 1950s era, and leaving one’s children to build a career. You sense that Louise gives her a chance just to be a human first and that Patsy gives Louise a chance to have bigger dreams.
Shedd-Thompson is well-backed by a talented group of musicians — Robbie Taylor on electric guitar; Jason Labrador on fiddle (and it was sweet); Jon Voth on pedal steel guitar; Jim Hofmann on drums; and Chris Chlumsky on bass. Music direction is by Refiye Tappan on keyboards. They really brought the feel of a honky-tonk to life in an open-air park.
“Always…Patsy Cline” is directed by Matt Conner, an old hand with musicals. Scenic and costume design is Margie Jervis who wisely keeps the set simple and the costumes for Patsy as eye-catching as would befit someone appearing on the Grand Ole Opry and in honky-tonks. Flash is key and the costumes have plenty. Kudos to stage manager, Nicholas Goodman, and production assistant, Grace Foor, for devising ways to handle the quick costume changes in a very limited area and make it look easy.
This production is a truly delightful way to start the summer. It has unexpected grace beyond the songs and a sly “Sing out, Louise” moment from Patsy to Louise that had the audience chortling. The show is full of well-crafted songs which were made timeless by the vocal abilities of Patsy Cline. It has Louise high-stepping through the park waving a Texas flag, which somehow she turns into a comedy routine — I don’t know how. Go see this show. It’s lovely.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes without intermission.
Show Advisory: A couple of racy references but done humorously.
“Always…Patsy Cline” runs through June 20, 2021 and is presented by Creative Cauldron. The show is performed live, in-person in Cherry Hill Park, Falls Church, VA (bring your own seating). For more information, please click here.