“Always…Patsy Cline” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – June 11, 2022


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Hormel Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Not everybody likes country music.  It’s an acquired taste but The Phoenix Theatre Company’s wonderfully tuneful “Always…Patsy Cline” production provides a great introduction to this popular musical style as personified by Cline.  It will turn a non-country music person into a devoted fan.  There are many reasons for the show’s positive impact.

Ted Swindley’s script starts in 1957 just as Cline’s career was beginning to soar.  It mixes renditions of Cline’s songs plus the singer’s friendship with Louise Seger, a Houston fan, allowing the interesting telling of Cline’s life along with a generous collection of Cline’s hits.  The show deals forthrightly with Cline’s untimely death at age 30 from an airplane crash.  Other pluses include director Debra K. Stevens’ expert but laid-back staging, Cassie Chilton’s remarkable Cline impersonation, and Katie McFadzen’s hilariously risqué Louise.

The music glows as performed rollickingly by Kevin Robert White’s jazzy five-person band.  The action plays out on a multi-purpose unit set that represents a honky-tonk bar, various performance spaces Cline played, and Louise’s Houston kitchen where the women’s bond developed.  Moody lighting and costumes that could have come from Cline’s own wardrobe add impeccable pictures.

With all those wonderfully performed hit tunes, it’s difficult to pick favorites but Cline’s biggest hits are the ones you will hum as you leave the performance like “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Crazy,” “True Love,” and “Bill Bailey.”

Local performer Chilton develops not only the sound but the look and mannerisms Cline made her own.  McFadzen massages every bit of humor out of Louise and she uses several hysterical little mannerisms that make it easy to understand how Cline developed such a supportive relationship with her.  The band bangs out the familiar Cline tunes with throbbing panache and one must mention Michelle Chin’s theatrically incredible drum rhythms that helps keep the show’s beat glittering.

It’s an easy breezy performance that is guaranteed to divert your mind from the hot weather.  “Always…Patsy Cline” turns on the charms of Cline’s catchy country music vibe to create a delightful entertainment.  “Always…Patsy Cline” runs through August 7.  To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A