Chicago Theater Review: ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on November 18, 2014

in Theater-Chicago

JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH PATSY

Patsy Cline, the once and future crossover country icon who made audiences “fall to pieces,” couldn’t be more fondly or accurately recalled. It happens weekly in Rogers Park’s No Exit Café through at least December. Sweet, spunky, and sincere, Fred Anzevino’s revival of the tribute Always… Patsy Cline sums up her art in 24 songs and her life in heartfelt testimony to and from her biggest fan. In nearly two hours we see Patsy not just in the passionate immediacy of her greatest hits but through the eyes of adoring groupie Louise Seger (Danni Smith), a Houston housewife who became fast friends when she met Patsy Cline in 1961 (two years before the latter’s tragic death at only 30 in a private plane crash).

Danni Smith and Christina Hall in ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Photo by Adam Veness.

An instant true believer, Smith’s Seger had already been Patsy’s champion since she first heard her on the Arthur Godfrey Show in 1957. She crusaded to get Cline’s songs played by Hal Harris, a local radio DJ (who would later get to meet the Nashville sensation herself). Meeting her in a half-filled Texas auditorium, Louise soon became a protective unofficial agent, a tempo coach for the local band, and, in her cozy kitchen, a confidante about love, music and lesser matters, and a maker of eggs and bacon.

Danni Smith in ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre - photo by Adam Veness.

At the heart of Louise’s ardor is the amazing Virginia-born chanteuse herself, stunningly and warmly recreated by a superb Christina Hall. Dolled up in poodle skirt or a sleek blue dress, an unimprovable Hall captures Cline’s contagious heartbreak in “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Crazy,” the do-si-doeing Texas standard “Lovesick Blues” and other torch ballads meant to melt hearts of lead.

Christina Hall in ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Photo by Adam Veness.

Apart from brassy leather lungs for belting very recognizable sorrows, Hall conveys the plaintive warble and moving tremolo that Patsy brought to such signature pieces as Cole Porter’s simple and ardent “True Love,” the ebullient “Back in Baby’s Arms,” the romping “You Belong to Me,” and such religious favorites as “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “How Great Thou Art.” Patsy’s supposed lullaby to Louise’s kid, “”If I Could See the World (Through the Eyes of a Child,” makes us do just that. When the women join in heavenly harmony in “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” for a minute or more nothing’s wrong around the world.

(L to R) Christina Hall, Cesar Romero (on guitar), Cody Siragusa (on bass), Danni Smith in ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Photo by Adam Veness.

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre perfectly sets this splendid show in Adam Veness’s miniature recreation of the Grand Old Opry stage and Louise’s kitchenette. Aaron Benham’s immaculately accurate musical direction of the “Bodacious Bobcats,” a 5-man combo, almost improves on the originals. It’s hard to imagine a more intimate revue, not just because of No Exit’s concentrated dimensions but the good nature of a solid charmer. The final rouser, “Bill Bailey,” may well stay in your sleep and mess with your dreams. That can happen here.

(L to R) Simeon Tsanev (on fiddle), Christina Hall, and Cesar Romero (on guitar) in ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Photo by Adam Veness.

photos by Adam Veness

Danni Smith in ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Photo by Adam Veness. Christina Hall in ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre - photo by Adam Veness.Always… Patsy Cline
Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave.
Thurs at 7:30; Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 7
scheduled to end on January 31, 2014
for tickets, call 800-595-4849
or visit www.theo-u.org

for more info on Chicago Theater, visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

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