Drayton Entertainment’s lineup of musical tributes continues with the return of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline.
The show written by Dean Regan and directed by Wade Lynch features 21 of Cline’s most memorable hits including, “I Fall to Pieces,” “Back in Baby’s Arms,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and “Faded Love.”
Rebecca Poff stars as Cline, bringing new life to a show that has been playing theatres across North America for more than two decades.
“Every time I’ve (directed) the show I say we’ll never top this, we’ll never find another singer who sounds so much like Patsy,” Lynch, in his 13th run with the show, explained. “But this outing is spectacular. Patsy Cline’s husband Charlie Dick is still alive and we are obliged by our contract to send him samples of our rehearsals for approval. We sent him a sample of Rebecca Poff singing and he phoned us back and said, ‘This woman is Patsy Cline!’ That is the kind of endorsement you want to hear.”
Stuart Dowling plays “The Little Big Man,” a Winchester, Virginia disc jockey who leads the audience through Patsy’s country music catalogue.
Dowling also serves as comic relief amongst all of the heartbreaking lyrics and the star’s untimely death.
“The journey of Patsy Cline is really told through concerts,” Lynch said. “We find her first on the radio, so when the audience comes into the theatre they are really coming into the WINC Studio in 1953, listening to a radio show… When we go on the musical journey and Patsy goes to Carnegie Hall, (Dowling) plays the Carnegie Hall comic. When she goes to Las Vegas, he is the Las Vegas comic. So every stop on the road there is someone who welcomes Patsy and it really adds so much to the story because it provides the levity. When you think about it, all of Patsy’s biggest songs were hurting songs, and then she dies. So if it didn’t have the levity it would be quite a downer.” (Cline died in a plane crash in 1963 at the age of 30.)
The actors also keep the audience engaged by getting them involved in the show, something the St. Jacobs Schoolhouse’s cozy atmosphere is perfect for, Lynch said.
“In the schoolhouse we only seat 100 people,” Lynch said. “I’ve done this show in 1,100-seat theatres and 500-seat theatres, but doing it in such an intimate theatre really makes the audience part of the show because of the way that the radio DJ can actually get out and come up to you and ask question. And Patsy, when she does ‘Bill Bailey (Won’t you please come home),’ she can actually find a Bill Bailey and seduce him in the audience.”
The presentation also features plenty of nods to the time period, including the performance of radio commercials for Winston Cigarettes, Mr. Clean and Ajax.
Of course the production is all about the music, which is performed by a live band.
“It’s just the two (actors) who carry the show, but throughout, there is a four-piece band who plays everything,” Lynch said. “We have four incredible musicians who have been at rehearsal since day-one, which almost never happens in theatre. Usually you rehearse without the musicians and then you bring them in three days before opening. But because the musicians are crucial to her success, we brought them in early. So there really is a relationship there, when Patsy is on stage she is never alone.”
Drayton Entertainment’s presentation of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline plays the St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre August 5 through December 21. Regular performance tickets are $42 for adults, $25 for youth under 20 years of age, available online at www.draytonentertainment.com, in person at the Drayton Entertainment box office or at 1-855-DRAYTON.