Firebrand Theatre Pays Tribute with Always… Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline is comfort, love, and heartbreak. Her music charms you, wraps you in a blanket and slips you a little whiskey. In Firebrand Theatre’s production of Always… Patsy Cline, Houstonite Loiuse Seger knows this experience all too well. Louise is drawn to Patsy Cline, and on one fateful night, the two meet and forge a friendship that lasts the rest of Patsy Cline’s life. This is the story of a single incredible night when two women found a bit of themselves in each other and director Brigitte Ditmars invites the audience to find themselves in a country song.

Always… Patsy Cline is a two-woman musical and a team effort. Louise carries the text and Patsy carries the tune. Firebrand has cast two extremely talented women who alternate the roles throughout the production run. On the night I attended Christina Hall was moving as Patsy Cline and Firebrand’s Artistic Director Harmony France rattled the space as Louise Seger. Harmony France’s Louise is a stand-up routine that opens with joy and keeps us laughing all the way through. Like any good comedian, France finds levity without losing the heart, and serves as the audience’s touchstone and our guide. Christina Hall’s Patsy Cline is uncanny as recreates one of America’s most identifiable female vocalists flawlessly. It’s surreal that Patsy Cline could live in space, that she could be so real when I’ve only ever been able to hear her through my speakers.

Steph Taylor’s costume design paints Patsy Cline as a picture, a beautiful image that captivates the Louise Segers of the world (everyone). The signature late 50s cocktail silhouette compliments Louise’s down-home vibe. Country meets glamour in the halls of this barnyard cabaret. Scenic Design by Lauren Nichols constructs a thrust stage out of what looks like refurbished wood, complete with a few cabaret tables for a few lucky guests. I didn’t get a seat at the table, but I grabbed one right next to the jukebox. Cat Wilson’s lighting design warms the space with amber lights strung above the audience and red-hot stage lights right up front. Props by Rachelle R. Kolecke cement time and place. It almost makes you want to pull a beer off the shelf. I want one of those beers. I’m just a Virginia girl, sitting in a Texas bar, waiting to hear that Nashville sound.

Under those bright country lights is the bandstand. Lead by music director Andra Velis Simon, the four-piece band plays along with more than just the songs. The band members sing back up and talk back when Louise tries to take things over. Sound designer and engineer Giselle Castro creates that tiny amplification that those older mics produced but allows room for Patsy Cline’s voice to fill the space uninhibited. There’s a lightness throughout the performance crafted by director Brigitte Ditmars. Ditmars strips away the internalized theatre etiquette that encourages audiences to sit down and shut up. Everything about this production wants you to get up, hoedown, and have a good time. It’s cold out there, warm up with Firebrand.

A few weeks ago, I was having a not so great day at work. I slapped on my noise-canceling headphones and started the “This is Patsy Cline” playlist on Spotify. I let her calming voice wrap me up. The power of Patsy Cline’s voice, just her voice, is inarguable. Always… Patsy Cline by Ted Swindley is more like a musical revue than it is a traditional musical. It’s just a single night charged with the power found in Patsy Cline’s music. That’s the beauty of Always… Patsy Cline. Two lives were changed forever because of one fun night where two women saw and cared for each other. That is certainly something I’d like to see more of, and something that Firebrand delivers.

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