You gotta see, and hear, this one
As the saying goes, “less is more.”
Two actors and a five-piece band are all that is needed to provide a great evening of song-after-song of the late, great, Patsy Cline, who, as all Country Music fans know, could sing better than anyone.
Or maybe just as good as Caitlan Leblo, who can sing better than most and who delivers an absolutely knock-out performance of 27 Cline songs in the Plaza Theatre Company’s current production of “Always...Patsy Cline,” playing through July 27 in Cleburne.
All the Cline classics are here, including “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Crazy,” and “Faded Love,” plus 23 more from the amazing Leblo accompanied by “The Bodacious Bobcats,” a live band composed of PTC Southern Gospel piano favorite Cheri Dee Mega on keyboard, Parker Barrus on electric guitar, Howard Geisel on fiddle, Freddy Martinez Jr playing bass and Tra Neuman on drums.
Simply sit back and enjoy a too fast 27 songs in 89 minutes.
PTC regulars already know about Leblo’s great voice, having enjoyed listening to her in the “Marvelous Wonderettes,” as a singing narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” and 13 other Plaza shows where she’s had singing roles.
Leblo, who lives in Granbury, shares PTC’s theater-in-the-round stage with Cleburne’s Shauna Lewis, who reprises her role from 2017 after already endearing herself to PTC fans with past roles as Ouiser in “Steel Magnolias,” and the Wicked Witch in “Wizard of Oz.”
“Always” just adds to Lewis’ stage reputation. She talks directly to the audience throughout the show and has the personality and talent to easily take the spotlight from Leblo. But she doesn’t. Instead, she deftly and cleverly knows just when to back off and allow Leblo to step up.
The mutual respect between the two actors is obvious and results in good vibes that only enhance this true story of endearing friendship between two women who wear their hearts on their hair-dos.
Lewis plays Louise Seger, the real-life Houston housewife who, after hearing Cline on the “Arthur Godfrey Show” in 1957, becomes Cline’s self-appointed biggest fan and then, surprisingly, develops a personal friendship with her. The narrative between Seger and the audience is her reading the letters she received from Cline during their three-year friendship and sharing details from her own he-done-me-wrong family life.
Seger becomes a pain to the local radio station KIKK by continually badgering disc jockey Hal Harris to play Cline’s records and finally gets the opportunity to see her in person in 1961 when Cline schedules a show at the Esquire Ballroom in Houston.
Seger, her boss and a few others arrive about 90 minutes early and, by coincidence, meet Cline who was traveling alone. The two women strike up a conversation. Around midnight, after Patsy signed autographs and posed for photos, Louise heard Patsy calling for a taxi to return to the Montague Hotel, according to an excerpt from interviews with Seger in “Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline.”
“No, you’ll go with us. We’ll go to my house so you can have something to eat,” Seger tells Cline.
At the kitchen table they talked about “broken hearts, husband problems, children problems, loves lost, loves won. We sounded like two people writing country songs,” Cline writes in “Honky Tonk Angel.”
They traded stories until almost 4 a.m., the interview reads.
They exchange telephone numbers and addresses. Although Seger never expects to hear again from Cline, she soon receives the first of many phone calls and letters that become the basis for the show.
Cline died in 1963 and Seger died in 2004.
Kudos to G. Aaron Siler for the sound design that smoothly blends Leblo’s outstanding voice with the Bodacious Bobcats toe-tapping instrumentals, to Cameron Barrus for lights, costumes by Emily Warwick, and Parker Barrus’ simple set that includes a kitchen, dining room table and plenty of space for Cline to work the room.
Relax and enjoy the songs of the legendary Patsy Cline delivered by one of the best singers you’ve ever heard.
You gotta see, and hear, this one.
“Always...Patsy Cline,” created by Ted Swindley, with songs by Don Gibson, Willie Nelson, Webb Pierce, Cole Porter, Neil Sedaka, Hank Williams Sr., Bob Wills and many others, directed by Jay Lewis (who, just like in 2017 gets to tell his wife what to do), with music direction by Cheri Dee Maga, is presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday through July 27 at the Plaza Theatre at Dudley Hall, 305 S. Anglin St. in Cleburne.
Tickets — $25 for adults, $23 for age 65 and older and high school and college students, and $15 for youth age 13 and under — can be purchased online at www.plaza-theatre.com, or at the box office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, or by phone at 817-202-0600.