Outside the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, during intermission of "Always . . . Patsy Cline," a gentleman said to his friend, "She's singing a lot of songs I don't associate with Patsy Cline."
His friend answered, "Well, when she was singing in a bar, she had to sing 20 or more songs. They were filler. She didn't have that many hits."
He hit the nail of the head.
Patsy Cline didn't have dozens of hits, but those she had was firstly individual, also gifted with a magical voice, and tinged with that slight scent of doom that gives immortality to the best country singers.
The main attraction this production has is the performance of Cindy Summers as Cline. Summers has been performing the role almost constantly since 1996. Summers has grown so much into the role that it's hard to remember that she played Nancy in "Oliver!" and Julie in "Show Boat." Her re-creation of Cline is memorable, with Cline's distinctive vocal dips and pirouettes intact. And her laid-back performance is exquisite and polished with a sure sense of Cline's appeal.
The ambience of the production is just right. Not a "book" musical, more of a "paragraph musical," the evening tells the true story of Cline's friendship with Louise Seger, a fan who spent a night with the singer in Houston. It's a touching story, well illustrated in Ted Swindley's script. What's missing is the interior Cline, the real woman behind the vibrant vocals. There is little behind the almost concert-style evening.
Making her directorial debut with this production is Misty Rowe, popular television comedienne, and 19-year veteran of television's "Hee Haw." Rowe should have found another director to look at things while she was on stage.
Rowe makes it an evening with Louise Seger, or more pointedly, an evening with Misty Rowe. Cut back by half, Rowe would be effective, but she almost always takes over the stage when Summers is on, strutting about in true "Hee Haw" style, punching up her chest with a wink at the audience, and wiggling her behind to drum accents. Rowe has been playing the role almost as long as Summers, and should know better.
* "Always. . . Patsy Cline," Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman, Fullerton. Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; July 23, 7 p.m.; July 29, 2 p.m. Through July 30. $15-$34. (714) 879-1732. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Cindy Summers: Patsy Cline
Misty Rowe: Louise Seger
"Always . . . Patsy Cline," produced by Fullerton Civic Light Opera. Written and originally directed by Ted Swindley. Directed by Misty Rowe. Set and costumes: Downtown Cabaret Theatre. Musical direction: Grant Rohr. Lighting design: Steven Young. Sound design: A.J. Gonzalez. Set decoration: Terry Hanrahan. Production stage manager: Donna R. Parsons.