This month’s shows ‘Crazy’ for Cline
BOILING SPRINGS – ‘Tis the season for tributes to Patsy Cline.
Last month, Mill Hall’s Millbrook Playhouse concluded its 50th season with “Always, Patsy,” the two-woman musical that pivots around the friendship between Patsy Cline and one rabid Houston fan.
Next month, Williamsport’s Community Theatre League kicks off its concert series with “Penny Sings Patsy.” Penny Eckman, one of the top tribute artists, appears on Oct. 4, singing Patsy Cline’s greatest hits.
This month, Allenberry Playhouse, located in Boiling Springs just outside Carlisle, is staging “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline” with matinee and evening performances Wednesdays through Sundays until Oct. 27.
Like “Always, Patsy,” which features a narrator and dialogue between Patsy and her loyal fan, “A Closer Walk…” also utilizes a narrator of sorts, a disc jockey who also doubles as a comedian which allows time for costume changes between songs.
Although it appears to be strictly a concert, this tribute is really a timeline of Patsy’s climb to fame – and she was no overnight star.
Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1931, the daughter of a single mother, she left school at age 15 to help support her mother and younger brother and sister.
She was only 16 when she first auditioned for Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Her talent was not fully appreciated until she won Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts radio show with her rousing rendition of “Walkin’ After Midnight” in 1957, a full 10 years after she began singing professionally.
Allenberry’s production excels with the casting of Nancy O’Bryan, who not only looks but sounds like the country and western legend.
O’Bryan, who has been playing Patsy Cline for over 10 years including a stint at Allenberry several years ago, has the unique tonal quality in singing 20 of Cline’s country-western tunes, many of which became crossover popular hits.
Dennis McKeen directs the show and plays the only other character, Little Big Man, the disc jockey at Radio Station WINC at her birthplace, Winchester. McKeen also amusingly plays the hillbilly comedian with the “high water” pants and suspenders, who tells a string of corny jokes, promising to continue until the audience laughs rather than groans.
Music director Wiliam Asher is the show’s pianist and conducts the on-stage musicians. Decked out in western garb, the four-piece band also does a bit of singing of commercials, mainly of “Ajax, the Foaming Cleanser.”
Some of the jingles are pre-recorded but noticeably missing from this production is a vocal quartet whose presence adds to the show’s entertainment quota.
O’Bryan, with a variety of colorful cowgirl attire, carries the show. With no dialogue and just a little banter with the audience, she brings Patsy Cline to life with an easy yet heartfelt delivery.
The show is brief, running for an hour and 45 minutes including a 15-minute intermission. Act One songs include “There He Goes,” “Faded Love,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Always.” Act Two has O’Bryan switching to a dress and singing “She’s Got You,” “Sweet Dreams,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “A Closer Walk With Thee” and, drawing the loudest applause, “Crazy.”
With a static background, the atmosphere does switch with effective changes in lighting, ranging from the reflecting crystal ball to lowering of three chandeliers as Patsy Cline’s popularity takes her from Las Vegas to New York’s Carnegie Hall and ultimately to Grand Ole Opry.
“A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline,” which ends in 1963 with her untimely death in a plane crash, is a well-produced tribute to Cline’s spirit and a celebration of her music.
Allenberry Playhouse is a spot to visit this fall for the beautiful foliage and to hear the hand-clapping and heartwarming music that made Patsy Cline the number-one jukebox play of all time.
For more information, call 717-258-3211, 1-800-430-5468 or visit allenberry.com.