The sweet satisfaction of the tribute show Always … Patsy Cline is hearing echoes of one of the most distinctive singing voices in the history of American music, a contralto supple, trilling, and rich with emotion. No one can duplicate the voice of “I Fall to Pieces,” “Crazy” or “Walking After Midnight,” but the North Coast Repertory Theatre’s presentation of Always … Patsy Cline has Katie Karel, and she does Cline’s memory and legacy proud. Karel’s co-star in the two-woman show created by Ted Swindley is Cathy Barnett, portraying a fan who becomes Cline’s confidante for a night during a tour stop in Houston and then her pen pal up until the time of her idol’s death (at only 30 years old) in a plane crash.
Always … Patsy Cline was last seen in these parts three years ago when it was produced by OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. The North Coast Rep production, like that one, is packed with performances of songs made famous by or associated with Cline – more than two dozen of them. Barnett’s cowgirl-fangirl bit becomes repetitive as the show goes on, but without it Always … Patsy Cline would be just a tribute concert. The friendship that the two women discover, like the infectious music, holds this show tightly and warmly together.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 12/19/18.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.