Patsy Cline is easily the queen mother of country music—her importance to the genre on par with the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Loretta Lynn. She was a pioneer, paving the way for country to go mainstream with her pop crossover hits and showing that women could hold their own in a tough, male-dominated industry. That her tragically short life has been captured on the stage in A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline, originally written and produced in 1991, is a testament to her power as a vocalist that created undeniably amazing performances.
Infinity first gave tribute to this county music queen in 2015 with Always…Patsy Cline.
This musical, which is more like a concert, spends its stage time by following Patsy’s career trajectory, starting with her first concerts in honky-tonks and at local events around Virginia, where she is decked out in fringe and boots, moving on to the Grand Ole’ Opry and Las Vegas, her costumes become fancier and fancier, and culminating in her Carnegie Hall triumph. The first female country artist to have performed there, she actually shared the stage that night with several artists.
The only way the show could really go wrong is if the female lead couldn’t sing the role and the male lead wasn’t funny. But Laura Stracko (Patsy) and Andy Baldwin (Little Big Man, a radio DJ who provides narration from a station in Patsy’s hometown of Winchester, VA) have talent in spades that moves the show along magically.
Stracko’s voice is smooth, emotional, tense, guttural. Like a blistering pot brimming with spiked, spiced cider that might overflow any moment. It sounds like a fire burns right beneath her heart, restrained only, just barely, at the last second by a tourniquet of cold reason. She’s got the soul of Patsy and incredible stamina to be able to sing her songs, and to sing them like Patsy.
closes July 10, 2017
Details and tickets
Baldwin is that aw-shucks, redneck kind of funny. He sings some product jingles and doubles as a type of emcee when Patsy performs at the Opry, in Vegas, and at Carnegie, telling corny jokes you can’t help but laugh at: “My doctor told me I was fat, so I asked for a second opinion,” he tells the audience, “He said, ‘You’re ugly, too.’”
The band is an amazing presence, adding the type of musicianship befitting a legend. Jay McCarthy stands out, picking up the fiddle on a few toe tapping numbers to the delight of the audience, and singing along as the show ran through Patsy’s canon. “She’s Got You” was perfect and, of course, “I Fall to Pieces,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” and “Just A Closer Walk with Thee” wonderful. But, “Crazy,” her most enduring and signature hit, was saved for last and did not disappoint.
I was easily the youngest person (by a decade) there, and, at one point, the lovely, older women next to me leaned in and asked, “Doesn’t it all just take you back to that age?” Not really, but I’m likely more in-the-know about Ms. Cline than most of my generation; her plane crashed in Camden, TN, where I spent childhood summers with my grandparents, aunt, and cousins, all Camden residents. Patsy died in that crash in March of 1963, which feels like eons ago, but considering that she was a contemporary of the still living (and touring) Loretta Lynn, who’s 2004 album Van Lear Rose was produced by and featured Jack White of the White Stripes and that Willie Nelson wrote “Crazy,” you soon realize we tango with her and her legacy often, even in 2017.
So, give her a listen—for old time’s sake or to hear an incredible voice. Better yet, see A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline and discover Ms. Cline’s life and some of the traditions upon which modern American music—country, rock, and pop—are built. We are lucky to have had Patsy Cline as a pillar and to have Closer Walk to remind us of that.
A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline . Written by Dean Regan. Direction and Music Direction by Tommy Iafrate. Featuring Laura Stracko and Andy Baldwin. Music by JP Coletta (Conductor and Keyboard), Jay McCarthy (Guitar and Fiddle), Bob Abbott (Bass), and Mark Lucas (Percussion) with Dakota Kaylor (Alternate Percussion) and Dakarai Brown and Marc Pavan (Offstage Vocalists). Understudies: Brooke Bloomquist and Marc Pavan. Production: Quinn Stone (Scenic Design), Kristina Martin (Costume Design and Production Wardrobe Supervisor), Nathan Hawkins (Lighting Design, Associate Technical Director and Master Electrician), Wes Shippee (Sound Design and Production Sound Engineer), Josh Debernardi (Technical Director), Molly Walz (Wig Design and Nair Consultant), Jeremy Joseph Ehlinger (Associate Producer and Box Office Manager), Katharina Fernandez (Costume Design Assistant), Tom Dicken (Scenic Carpenter), Katie Rey Bogdan (Production Assistant), Cat Cochran (Production Assistant), Jason Styres (Casting), Danielle Wirsansky ( Producing Apprentice), Morgan Leigh Beach (Assistant Stage Manager), and Meagan Spry (2nd Assistant Stage Manager). Stage Managed by Kristin Loughry. Produced for Infinity Theatre by Anna Roberts Ostroff and Alan Ostroff with Charlie Dick as Production Advisor. Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.