Timber Lake Playhouse keeps the energy going following the regular summer season that clearly raised the bar of excellence; “Gypsy,” “Having Our Say, The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” “Rock of Ages,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Titanic” and “Gaslight” were each memorable shows, one exciting experience after another.
As part of its juke box series that presented “Almost Heaven: The Songs of John Denver” earlier in the spring, TLP opened “Always…Patsy Cline” on Friday evening. Authored by writer/director Ted Swindley and directed at TLP by Courtney Crouse, the show celebrates Patsy Cline’s life and musical effect on generations since her rise to country stardom. It has also run off-Broadway as well as internationally. And it’s based on her true story.
In her short life, the long range effect of Patsy Cline seems synonymous with the title of the show ‘Always…’ in that several generations after her untimely death, steadfast fans still get lost in her vibes of vibratos.
It was indeed a short life. In 1963 at the age of only 30 a small plane crashed in Tennessee killing her, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins as well as her manager Randy Hughes. Many fans said about the tragedy that it marked “the day that music died.”
But it hasn’t died, not according to the enthusiasm shared by audience members at TLP yesterday. At the first entrance and first song by guest performer Harmony France, “Honky Tonk Merry Go Round,” there were bobbing heads and knees tapping all around. By, “I Fall To Pieces,” you could feel reminiscence throughout the house as several generations may have fallen in love then, out of love then, or simply knew how, “Walkin’ After Midnight” felt. Whatever musical effect of Patsy Cline still exists today.
The “Always” part of show’s title is reflected in the ongoing letters that she exchanged with housewife fan Louise Seger of Texas. Their friendship developed as Seger’s relentless determination to promote her was nearly larger than Cline’s voice itself. She was a fearless cheerleader of Cline’s initial launch. Their correspondence that followed until the end captivated playwright Swindley to have Cline’s story unfold.
Portraying Cline for this show is returning actress/singer Harmony France whose previous TLP appearances include “Big River” of last season and “Almost Heaven; Songs of John Denver” earlier this year. She draws from rich experiences on a world tour of Broadway’s “Sister Act” and best actress nominations for Jeff Awards.
France took on the heavy responsibility to deliver Cline’s rich and unusual contralto voice in a most convincing manner. After all, fans of yore remember every emotional lyric from deeper alto upward to the clouds of soprano range that moved so many. If you listened closely during the performance, there were imitation hums in the audience. France was a most strong candidate for Cline’s work.
Sarah Larson as fan Louise Seger also returns to TLP after past appearances in “A Chorus Line,” “The Music Man” and “’SWonderful.” While her musical talents draw from various Chicago theatres, she brings the best side of her acting ability to the role of Louise. As per script, she fills the sidekick role to the brim so as not to upstage the some 27 songs performed by France.
Onstage musicians were directed by Keyboardist Andrew Milliken with guitarists Joe Steil and Ayethaw Tun, violinist Clara Treadway, drummer Korey Steil and bass guitarist/TLP executive director Dan Danielowski (who knew?).
Feel the love and history with “Always…Patsy Cline,” But not too many shows left! Today (Sunday) 2 p.m. matinee, next Friday and Saturday (16th and 17th) 7:30 p.m., and two 2 p.m. matinees 17th and 18th. The boonies theatre is a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road, Mount Carroll. Call the box office at (815) 244-2035 or firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets, group rates and more information. Don’t miss the cash bar before and during the show!