A play review
By Dean Poling
VALDOSTA — Peach State Summer Theatre has presented a crowd-pleasing nostalgia show as part of its schedule for the past few seasons.
Two years ago, “The Marvelous Wonderettes” showered audiences with 1950s and ’60s pop hits along with comedy.
Last year, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” shared the ’50s and ’60s hits of songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrapped in choreographed humor.
Some audience members attended these shows more than once.
“Always ... Patsy Cline” will likely be that show this season. It opened Wednesday night to a near-capacity crowd in Valdosta State University’s Sawyer Theatre.
The show centers on a fan’s friendship with the legendary country music icon. “Always ... Patsy Cline” includes the expected hits, “Crazy,” “Walking After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams,” and more songs which some fans will remember and others will discover.
Ashley Rose plays Cline and does so with a remarkable voice.
Until hearing so many Cline songs, one may forget the star opened most of her recordings with a big, bold note.
Rose hits these notes every time, causing the audience to applaud immediately at the opening of several songs.
Like Cline, Rose’s voice is a mix of dynamic rockabilly and haunting soul. Rose has the chops to make her voice be whatever it needs to be for each Patsy Cline song. She also brings a sassy, yet vulnerable, personality to the singer.
Rebekah Matheson plays Louise Seger, the fan who becomes Patsy’s friend during one concert in the early 1960s. Matheson is a hoot as Louise. She brings a bigger-than-life personality to the stage and produces even bigger laughs from the audience.
Matheson often performs directly to the audience. She coaxes some audience members into being a part of the show. Matheson is a joy and connects a storyline to the concert aspects of the show.
Together, Rose and Matheson are a team that leave audiences wanting more.
While they are the only two actors in the show, they are backed by a live band led by Matthew C. Mainella.
The band, calling itself the Bodacious Bobcats, is as much a part of the show as Rose and Matheson. Of course, the orchestra is a vital part of each PSST! show. The difference here is that instead of being behind the scenes unseen by the audience, the band sits visible on the stage and interacts directly with Rose and Matheson.
It’s a strong reminder that live musicians also fuel PSST!’s current “Les Miserables” and the upcoming live staging of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Director-choreographer Barbara Hartwig directs “Always.” She also directed “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and “Smokey Joe’s.” She knows the territory of “Always.” She lets her performers have fun but keeps the action moving and the songs coming, while allowing the performers and audiences to savor particularly moving or funny moments.
With all of the music flowing through Sawyer Theatre, “Always ... Patsy Cline” inspires plenty of toe-tapping and clapping along to songs. Some audience members even started singing along, but please, leave the singing to Ashley Rose — she’s got Patsy covered.
This review is based on the opening night performance Wednesday.
Peach State Summer Theatre presents “Always ... Patsy Cline” again 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; it then opens in regular rotation come 7:30 p.m., July 1, through mid July, Sawyer Theatre, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. Reservations, more information: Visit www.valdosta.edu/psst. The Valdosta Daily Times is PSST!’s corporate sponsor.