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By Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to The Village News 

Play Patsy for me


Last updated 12/26/2018 at 2:58pm

Aaron Rumley photos

Patsy Cline's biggest fan, Louise Seger, is played by Cathy Barnett in "Always...Patsy Cline" at the North Coast Repertory Theatre.

From downtown Houston just keep heading south on the Hempstead highway until you land at the front door of the Esquire Ballroom. In 1961, it was the biggest dance hall in Texas.

According to the KIKK disc jockey, the 10,000 square foot dance hall will for one night only host none other than Miss Patsy Cline.

Louise Seger tells her story in "Always...Patsy Cline" about that one special night when she meets her favorite country singer, Miss Patsy Cline, and the friendship that followed.

Based on the letters between Patsy and Louise, this true story of their friendship lasted until Cline's untimely death in March of 1963.

Louise is gutsy, humorous, even bawdy at times as she tells her tale with a glint in her eye and a deep and lasting love for her friend Patsy.

Louise is played by Cathy Barnett, an actress from Kansas City, Mo. Once under the wing of comedian Louis Black, Barnett was encouraged to embrace her funny side.

Barnett performs her Houston-based Louise character as the 1960's version of my ex-mother-in-law, Johnny Mae. Barnett hits a home run with her Texas style familiarity and spunk. Big red hair, greenish-blue eye shadow, false eyelashes laced with spitfire and a bottle of Schlitz. She is bawdy, flirtatious and interacts with the audience like she is in a Las Vegas nightclub. A star performance.

Patsy Cline is played by mezzo soprano Katie Karel, also a miss from the Midwest. Her tribute to the famous singer as a wholesome, likeable young woman does justice to Patsy's life. No denying Karel is a crackerjack singer, hitting every note and word without fail. Her portrayal didn't lack anything but the heartache in Patsy Cline's voice. Occasionally it would come through like in the Hank Cochran song "She's Got You" but too often I missed hearing the sorrow in Patsy's voice.

Having never heard a sound equal to Patsy's – this isn't to say that Miss Karel's performance was lacking. It wasn't. Karel was true to every other aspect of a young mother trying to eek out a singing career when only men were country stars. Decca Records did not even provide a chaperone and so Cline was forced to travel to her venues without an escort.

Patsy Cline is played by mezzo soprano Katie Karel in "Always...Patsy Cline" which plays through Dec. 30.

Expertly directed by Allegra Libonati, the show has a free form natural flow giving it a down-home feel. The other miracle workers were completed by the resident scenic designer Marty Burnett. (I for one loved the kitschy Formica table and matching chairs).

Music was under the supervision of Daniel Boss on keyboards, Fred Ubaldo, Jr. on bass, Tim Cook on the pedal steel guitar as well as a few raspy blurts on trombone with Jeff Dalrymple, the expert drum player.

Matthew Novotny presided over the lights with Ryan Ford on sound. Peter Herman scored with the hair and wigs although I for one wanted bigger hair throughout. It was the era after all.

"Always...Patsy Cline" plays through Dec. 30 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Ste D, Solana Beach. It doesn't hurt to check although I understand this popular show is a sellout. Plenty of free parking.

Box office hours are noon-4 p.m., Monday through Sunday. Try the website at Rated 9.5 out of 10.


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