Like the taste of country biscuits lathered with huge dollops of butter, Patsy Cline’s voice and songs are a taste of a sumptuous concert in Cherry Hill Park, the scene of Creative Cauldron’s newest show which runs through this weekend (pending rain).
In “Always…Patsy Cline,” the star sings all her hits in that distinctive country voice, sure to delight her most ardent fans and secure some new ones, too. Last Saturday night in the park, Kanysha Williams was the “Patsy” for this weekend who belted out all of the singer’s hits in that clear, melodious voice to remind listeners of why the artist’s work still endures.
Her voice was so strong, it overpowered the cicadas, never to be seen or heard, but perhaps lulled to sleep by a heavenly sound.
The musical begins with a little help from Patsy’s true-life friend Louise Segar (Erin Granfield) who describes how the two friends met and then Patsy lets loose. (In a near show-stealer, Erin does, too.)
Adding enjoyment and variation to the show were the costumes and sets designed by Margie Jervis, who created a simple kitchen table and chairs on a small stage with a black backdrop, topped with hanging lights that blinked.
Nothing more was needed, but those fancy sequined country outfits sure did put more flavor in the surroundings.
True to life, Patsy’s multiple colorful dresses in “Always” followed her costume lineage as she started her career in cowgirl attire.
Before the show, Ellen Selby, Creative’s managing director explained that “Always” has four “Patsys” who star on different dates.
Matt Conner, the director, was inspired by the auditioners and their talents and sensitive to all the actors who’ve been unemployed by the pandemic, he suggested using more than one actor, and so they did.
(The other “Patsys” are Sally Imbriano, Candice Shedd-Thompson and Katy Benko with an understudy by Angelica Miguel.)
The additional stars “did mean more rehearsals and more rigorous rehearsals. But the Patsys had the unique benefit of learning together and with each other,” Selby noted.
How four stars came to be outfitted for one person is another story.
Each of the four “Patsy” actors had her own “little black dress with a 50s retro line,” according to Selby, and costume lead Jervis fashioned skirts and specially engineered tops and dresses which the actors could quickly change into and adjust behind the stage before they make their grand entrances in stunning, glorified country glam attire.
Conner is from Winchester, Virginia, Patsy Cline’s birthplace, where “he grew up with her in the well water,” Selby said. Conner insisted on a pedal steel guitar for the show “’because it’s Patsy Cline!” (On different play dates, Lynn Kasdorf and Jon Voth play the pedal steel.)
Creative Cauldron founder and producing director Laura Connors Hull told the audience that the theatre may bring the show back this fall after its Covid delay.
It’s the first staged production the theatre has performed in the park.This show is so popular in the U.S. that 24 other venues are staging it this summer. It first premiered in 1988 and hasn’t ceased production. American Musical Theatre magazine calls it “one of the most produced musicals in America.”
The show was conceived and written by Ted Swindley who based it on real material — the letters Patsy wrote to Louise.
Creative Cauldron’s musical director and keyboardist is Refiye Tappan who is accompanied by Robbie Taylor on electric guitar, Jason Labrado, fiddle; Jim Hoffman, drums; Chris Chlumsky, bass, and Kasdorf or Voth. The stage manager is Nicholas J. Goodman and Grace Foor is the production assistant.
All tickets are $35. Check the website (creativecaludron.org) which closes online ticket sales at 5 p.m. on the day of the show. Tickets for cash are sold “at the gate.”
Shows are at 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday with more performances possible. For seating, take a chair (there are no “bad” seats) and for the program, take your phone to read the “touchless” program. Duration: 80 minutes.
As for the audience, under the “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” we may go “Crazy” and “Fall to Pieces” “Anytime” when we go “Walkin’ After Midnight” wailing “Faded Love” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” while we cry the “Lovesick Blues” because, after all, “You Belong to Me.”
Patsy Cline died in a plane crash in Tennessee in 1963 when she was 30, but her stature and record sales continue to grow. The Recording Industry of America lists her among “Best Selling Artists” with a total of over 14 million records sold.