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Review – ‘Always… Patsy Cline’ at Sonoma Arts Live By Alexa Chipman

Patsy Cline evokes tender nostalgia for melodious country music with its naïve, mournful refrains and quiet empathy. In her brief career, Cline pushed boundaries for female singers, recording classics like“Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces” for an enraptured audience. Her Southern charm has dwindled with time—younger generations have not heard her name—yet she lives on in this touching tribute to friendship.

‘Always… Patsy Cline’ was the closing phrase of her letters to Louise, an enthusiastic fan whose hospitality and support grew into a connection that affected both their lives. This jukebox musical is filled with Cline’s compassionate songs, pausing for brief reminiscing from Louise, who attacks the minimal book with pizazz, creating the illusion of a one-woman play performing in parallel with a concert.

Both women are riveting in entirely different ways. Karen Pinomaki’s brash Louise is vibrant, sauntering with self-assured gumption to champion Cline’s career. Danielle DeBow moves with easy grace, adjusting her signature voice clarity with a husky edge and careful sense of timing to align with Cline’s tone. Director Michael Ross has delivered a pristine staging, filled with elegance and a sense of humanity in Louise and Patsy.

Music director Ellen Patterson and the “Bodacious Bobcats Band” channels a jazzy country vibe, with well-balanced instruments and nimble fingering from Steve Danska on steel guitar. Backup singers “The Jordanaires” joke with Cline between songs and add layering to her upbeat numbers.

Recreating her trademark looks, Ross and The Wig Guys depict Patsy Cline from an early vibrant western dress covered in fringe to the sophisticated pastel evening gowns of her later career that are remarkably accurate. Courtney Johnson’s arresting magenta lighting design reflects Cline’s personality, drawing attention to the band onstage.

‘Always… Patsy Cline’ from Sonoma Arts Live is a large helping of sizzling country music in a sensational production that hits every note.

Always… Patsy Cline

Presented by Sonoma Arts Live through July 29, 2018 Thur/Fri/Sat at 7:30pm, Sun at 2:00pm

Rotary Stage in Andrews Hall Sonoma Community Center 276 East Napa Street, Sonoma, CA 95476 (866) 710-8942

Photos by Eric Chazankin

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