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Dissin’ "Cline": "Always ... Patsy Cline," at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre through June 17 PDF Print E-mail
Theatre - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 13 June 2007 02:37

Julia Kay Laskowski Let me preface by saying that the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's Friday performance of Always ... Patsy Cline received a hearty standing ovation, which, based on the happy audience murmurs that circulated whenever the band began one of the country singer's signature numbers, appeared largely composed of Cline admirers.

If that assumption is correct, then their response was perfectly understandable: To the fans' delight - and my dismay - Always ... Patsy Cline is about a half-dozen different Cline shows rolled into one. Ted Swindley, cited as the production's "author," certainly gives you plenty of Cline tunes for your buck - some two dozen in all - but he switches styles so egregiously and relentlessly that this musical biography seems, to me, quite loopy; I would've traded a dozen songs for a coherent presentation.

At first, the show - directed by the Showboat's new artistic director, Craig A. Miller - is a straight-on reenactment of a Cline concert, with the crooner (played by Julia Kay Laskowski) performing directly to the audience, accompanied by a four-piece band. Yet while the group plays well enough, it's immediately clear that Laskowski isn't going to enjoy much interaction with her musicians, whose eyes are squarely focused on their sheet music; Laskowski spends her first two numbers looking stranded.

Afterwards, though, the character of Louise Seger (Lyndsay Sweeney) shows up - an excitable, sassy acolyte at the shrine of Patsy - and Always ... drops its concert format in favor of a biographical narrative, with Cline's performances serving as musical punctuation between Seger's comedic recollections. (Always ... is purportedly based on a true story, but it plays as an unconvincing conceit, and while Sweeney is a vibrant actress who appears fabulously comfortable during her monologues, her shtick would've been funnier if the character weren't so busy cracking herself up.)

But then we switch back to concert mode; Seger meets her idol at a Texan honky tonk, the two become fast friends, and the musical numbers - with Seger oftentimes appearing in them - are again performed presentationally.

But then, we follow the women to Seger's home, where the two converse and Cline's songs now flow directly out of their conversation, as in a traditional book musical - a reference to no-good spouses leads to "Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray," a mention of "crazy" love lives leads to ... well, you get the picture ... .

Incredibly, there are even more stylistic switches to come - after the stars' curtain call, they bizarrely pop back into character for a couple of encores - and this incessant toggling makes Swindley, as an "author," appear both schizophrenic and incredibly lazy; he seems to feel that, narrative be damned, any excuse to get Cline's numbers out there is a valid one. Friday's audience certainly seemed to agree, yet I, personally, found no joy in the presentation. Even a jukebox revue of this sort has to deliver some kind of consistency, and this one too often left me scratching my head.

As for Laskowski, she hits the right notes and has lovely tonality, but not until well into Act II does she sing with the passion and vibrancy that made Cline a legend; it's a pleasant performance but not, unfortunately, an exciting one. To be fair, though, the actress may have been put off by the couple sitting 10 feet away from me, who talked - loudly - throughout the show. The annoyance in Laskowski's expression as she frequently stared down these chatterboxes (albeit in character) was the most honest aspect of Always ... Patsy Cline, and one of the few that made any sense whatsoever.


For tickets, call (563) 242-6760.

Comments (6)Add Comment
written by Mark X. Laskowski, June 14, 2007
I really love reviews that show me how much the reviewer knows about theatre but doesn't understand why the audience likes a show. Maybe it goes beyond the reviewer's range at writing cutesy headlines to convince their readers into knowing what's good for them, instead of what is truely, well...good. Granted Julia is my wife, so there is a bias here. I'm not a big fan of the show myself, but I am very familliar with all of the biographies and materials that went into the "writing" of this show. Plain and simple it is a musical review of Patsy Cline with a historical narration thrown in for comic relief. Maybe you would have done your readers more service to comment on the things they might have enjoyed, more than showing your broad education from whatever reviewer school you may (or may not have) graduated from. If I may add for your readers, please come and see all the shows this summer at Clinton Area Showboat Theatre. We are a company of actors from all over the country come to share our talents with the Clinton area. We ask very little in return only to catch a break from the local reviewers trying to discourage anyone from suporting professional theatre.
Thank You,
written by Mark X. Laskowski, June 14, 2007
P.S. If you want to talk to Ted Swindley about his show I can send you his address.
written by B. K. Woody, June 15, 2007
My first viewing of the Cline show was Wed. when I ushered 2 shows. It was very entertaining especially for the Patsy Cline fans. I don't know what Mark was doing :)
written by Henrietta Wolf, June 20, 2007
When this show played in Houston with Julia Kay Laskowski in the role of Patsy Cline, I saw it 7 times because I loved it so much. I can't imagine someone finding "no joy in the presentation" as I found pure joy every time I saw it. And that's why I kept going back--for the delightful, funny, sad, wonderful, joyful experience. I'm glad the audience (except for the talkers--what were they doing there?) loved it as well. And I plan to see it again in Houston where it's being done at the Texas Repertory Theater this summer. Good literary and theater criticism can be educational, but the comments by the reviewer of this show don't seem to match this viewer's experience at all.
written by a., June 22, 2007
I have read this review, and the resulting comments several times, and can no longer NOT respond myself.

I feel offended, as a theatre artist, that any other theatre artist would attempt to encourage a critic to be less-than-educated about that which he writes. It is not a critic's responsibility to simply praise a production in order to fill the seats. In my experience, Mr. Schulz's reviews have always been honest and fair and more-than-encouraging. As a clear and consistent fan of the work that is done in Clinton, he therefore is allowed to, and in fact I would always hope that he would, hold the artistry to a higher standard without anyone having the right to question his motives--which seem absolutely to be bringing audiences' attention to quality theatre.

It seems to me that most of the review finds fault with the script and not the performances, and throughout history actors have avoided reading reviews in order to stay away from what those reviews might mean to them personally. If an actor's family member also takes the reviews personally, perhaps that person should also refrain.

Also, what has always been wonderful about the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre is how welcoming the community is to their guest actors. To condescend to those people who are supporting your careers, and make it seem like you are in fact "doing a favor" by coming to the area--well, that's exceptionally distasteful.

I believe that if you look back over Mike Schulz's reviews, he is a constant supporter of live, professional theatre. Each theatre artist and critic holds a responsibility to make art that is better; to forever ask the questions that will lead to more effective, not to mention entertaining, art; and to never stop asking audiences to challenge the work that you do.

Anything less is just irresponsible art.
written by Mark X. Laskowski, June 25, 2007
We as actors have very little to do with the writing of the shows. Mr. Shulz's review had more to do with his opinion of the show rather than the production. I meant no disrespect to the Clinton community, I have met very many local talents in the short time I have been here, and there seems to be very few spaces for them to express their talents. I have found this experience to be my most challenging to date. I only wished Mr. Shulz would have spent a little more time praising the production, which he seemed to think professional, and less critiquing a show he stated he didn't care for from the beginning.

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