Review: Always. . . Patsy Cline at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

I never thought I liked country music until I saw Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre’s latest Indianapolis theatre offering: Always. . . Patsy Cline. This musical review of Patsy Cline’s most famous songs offers an in depth look into a very special relationship between one of Patsy’s most devoted fans and the famous country gal. Two talented actresses team up in front of a full honky tonk band to present Always. . . Patsy Cline at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre now through June 6. Located north of Indianapolis downtown, Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre presents a fully loaded evening complete with dinner and a show. Don’t miss their latest Indianapolis performing arts offering, which depicts the life and times of singer Patsy Cline.

I have to admit I walked into Always. . . Patsy Cline with a bit of a bias. I’ve never liked country music, in any form. So the thought of sitting through two hours of a show about an icon from this musical genre sounded, to me, like torture. Instead, I found myself swaying gently in my seat as if being rocked by a lullaby, clapping along and stomping my feet as if I was in the honky tonk bar where Louise Seger and Patsy Cline first met and even cheering for an encore at the end, wanting to be serenaded just one more time by that soulful singer. Walking out of this Indianapolis theatre, I felt joyful, declaring, “This is the best show I’ve ever seen at Beef and Boards. I think I might just be a Patsy Cline fan, after all!” With the power to transform even the staunchest opponent of country music, Beef and Boards latest Indianapolis art offering is a success.

Always. . . Patsy Cline shares the true story of one avid Patsy Cline fan, Louise Seger (Erin Parker), as she attends a performance from the noted singer. The play moves easily between Cline’s 25+ songs and Seger’s story about meeting her idol. The Houston gal, who first encounters Patsy Cline’s music on a morning television show, becomes Mrs. Cline’s self-proclaimed super fan. When she learns that Patsy will be singing in her hometown, she gathers up a few friends and arrives early to the saloon to ensure her front row seats. She notices Patsy Cline (Christine Mild) enter the bar, alone, and she invites the singer to her table. The pair hit it off beautifully, as Seger dons the role of Cline’s “manager” for one night only.

After a raucous and wonderful performance, Seger invites Cline to her home for some scrambled eggs, and the ladies chat the night away. The next morning Seger muscles her and Patsy’s way onto a local radio show. Before parting that day, Seger and Cline are speaking like old friends. They exchange contact information and begin a long correspondence that lasts until the singer’s premature death in a plane crash.

The story unfolds on a clever set designed by Michael Layton, that captures the Grand Ole Opry feel while ably transforming to a rundown honky tonk bar and even Seger’s kitchen table. With a full band filling the majority of the stage’s space, Mild and Parker play mostly on the lip of the stage. Interesting visual elements, such as an extra large light up radio dial and an over sized “Greetings from Houston” postcard built into the proscenium, create various locations, imagined or otherwise. Layton keeps it simple on stage, closely aligning his design with the idea of a full length concert rather than a play. Yet, minimal and cleverly placed elements support the theatricality of the show.

Though Parker’s Seger wears the same denim outfit throughout the play, Mild’s Cline changes outfits practically every song. Designs by Dale Dibernardo share a fabulous trip through late 1950s early 1960s fashion. Mild looks simply stunning from costume to costume, helping her transformation to this country super star.

The play, however, is all about the voice. Christine Mild sings more than twenty five of Patsy Cline’s greatest hits. Her sound puts every other prior singer that has graced the stage of Beef and Boards to shame. With a twangy tonality and a smile that permeates each note as it shoots to the back of the theatre, Mild doesn’t play Patsy Cline; she is Patsy Cline, at least for two or so hours. Her voice is enchanting, relaxing, inspiring, graceful, toe tapping, uplifting and the adjectives could go on and on. With the power to convey clear emotion through song, Mild’s voice has the ability to rely specific feeling and transform her audience. Her music literally brought tears to my eyes in one moment, and in the very next laughter to my heart.

Its easy to allow yourself to adore Mild’s Patsy Cline with super fan Louise Seger on stage, whose adoration tops any other’s. As Louise Seger, Erin Parker is quirky, bold and hilarious. A country girl herself, whose strength makes her an easy friend to Patsy Cline, the role accounts for most of the dialogue throughout the show. Through extended monologues and by populating a few scenes with multiple characters, Parker casually shares her story.. It is as if each audience member were invited to her home for a dinner party, and this is the famous story we all beg to hear time after time.

Always. . . Patsy Cline is a pure honky tonk entertainment. It is a show that is impossible not to enjoy. This musical play is great way to re-discover (of if you’re like me, discover for the first time) Patsy Cline’s music. For a wonderful experience in Indianapolis theatre, head to Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre now through June 6 to see Always. . . Patsy Cline.

After the show, head to any of the refreshing Indianapolis bars to discuss your renewed (or new found) love for Patsy Cline over cocktails. Stay tuned to Indianapolis News, Events and Information on Fun City for all the latest on fun things to do in Indianapolis. We cover Indianapolis attractions to Indianapolis sports and everything in between. Get out in Indy and find some fun!

Always. . .Patsy Cline
Now through June 6

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre
9301 North Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268