The Magic of Patsy Cline Fills Stackner Cabaret at The Rep

Kelley Faulkner as Patsy Cline at The Rep

If heartaches brought fame in love’s crazy game,
I’d be a legend in my time.
If they gave gold statuettes for tears and regrets,
I’d be a legend in my time.
Don Gibson, 1960

We love our legends, always have and always will.

And perhaps the legends we love the most are those who left our lives well before their time.

Think Buddy Holly dying in a plane crash at 23. We missed him, but his music lives to this day.

So, too with Patsy Cline, the young woman who was a star in country music for six years before she died, also in a plane crash, at 30. Her music lives on in the hearts and minds of millions of fans.

And it is the heart and mind of Patsy Cline that is getting a brilliant treatment at the Stackner Cabaret at The Rep. Under the remarkable music direction of Dan Kazemi and with a pair of wonderful actors, Kelley Faulkner as Ms. Cline and Tami Workentin as her best fan and close friend, Louise Seger.

It may be left to Willie Nelson to best capture the one word that best describes this show.

When he was just writing songs in Nashville, he met Ms. Cline’s husband in a bar and pitched a song, “Crazy” to him for Ms. Cline. When she heard it, she hated it, primarily because of the way Nelson sang it, both before and after the beat.

But it was rearranged as a ballad and she recorded the song the way she sang everything, on the beat, and it went on to become a No. 1 hit on the country charts. Years later Nelson was asked about the songs he had written.

“My all-time favorite of any song I wrote that someone recorded is Crazy,” he said. “Patsy Cline singing “Crazy” is just plain magic.

Magic is what gets created by Director Laura Braza, Kazemi, a host of skilled designers and two actors at the top of their game.

The production is based on the story of Mrs. Seger who was the most devoted of fans and her chance encounter at one of her shows and the lifelong friendship that followed.

Ms. Faulkner captures everything that was great about Ms. Cline.

Ms. Cline was totally unlike most performers today. She stood on a stage, behind a microphone and sang her songs. No histrionics, no guitar.

As music promoter Dick Clark once said when Ms. Cline was on a stage, it was “just a girl and a song.”

Ms. Faulkner has all of the physical simplicity of Ms. Cline and, with the direction of Mr. Kazemi, shows the sophistication of not trying to imitate

Ms. Cline. Instead she uses her marvelous voice to take us up to the edge of the voice. She has that catch in her voice that gave so much emotional punch to everything Ms. Cline did.  She stands quietly while singing. Watching the people watching her. It was that simplicity that endeared Ms. Cline to her fans and Ms. Faulkner captures it perfectly.

Ms. Faulkner is a stunning woman and with her wig and simple costumes (except for the fringed cowboy dress), she captures the kind of understated beauty of Ms. Cline.

Tami Workentin as Louise Seger in “Always…Patsy Cline at The Rep

Ms. Workentin is, simply put, an absolute marvel as the hilarious Louise.

She has been wigged, padded with a butt that demands attention saddled with a personality somewhere between sassy and humble. She has the moments of fame, talking with the audience, dancing while allegedly leading the band, sitting in her kitchen with Ms. Cline in the wee hours of the morning.

There is obviously a charismatic affection these two actors have for each other and it shows on the stage. They play off each other with ease and comfort, creating an atmosphere in the Stackner that makes this show so easy to watch and makes you wish it would run for months and months.

Great music. Great acting. The rare combination of humor and memories trotted out for an adoring crowd.

One of the joys of this show is that so much of Ms. Cline’s music is part of it. Twenty seven songs get full treatment, not snippets like somany other jukebox shows.

To ad the cherry to this sweet concoction, this production also delivered tears at the end.

Starting with the beautiful son “Faded Love,” which takes on a new meaning when it’s sung while Louise is reading one of Ms. Cline’s letters. Tender doesn’t begin to describe the moment.

Production credits:  Director, Laura Braza; Music Director, Dan Kazemi; Scenic Designer, Emily Lotz; Costume Designer, Leslie Vaglica; Lighting Designer, Aimee Hanyzewski; Sound Design, Megan B. Henningear; Dialect Coach, Eva Breneman; Casting Director, Frank Honts; Stage Manager Rebekah, Heusel; Production Photographer, Michael Brosilow.

 

About davebegel@gmail.com

Theater Critic in Milwaukee.
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