By Daniel Skora
There are two fabulous shows currently being presented at the Encore Musical Theatre, and the cost of a single price of admission gets you in to see them both. The first show is a homecoming for the biggest country hits ever recorded by a woman whose brilliant but short career set the standard for many of the country and pop female singers that followed. The second show showcases one of the funniest comedic performances you are apt to see this or any theatre season. The two shows exist together as one in “Always…Patsy Cline”, the current production of The Encore Musical Theatre.
Patsy Cline’s career began in earnest at the age of 25 when she beat out other performers on the nationally televised “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” show. Her unique voice, southern charm, and songs made for the lovelorn made her an instant hit with fans. One of those fans was Houston housewife Louise Seger, who met Cline in 1961 while she was performing in the area. Cline was out on a tour by her lonesome, and when Seger suggested she spend the night at her home, Cline readily agreed. The friendship that was formed that night lasted for years, through letters and over the telephone, until Cline died in a plane crash in 1963. Cline closed all of her letters to Seger with the words “Love Always, Patsy Cline”, hence the title of the show.
Emmi Veinbergs as Patsy Cline and Sonja Marquis as Louise Seger are absolutely brilliant in their separate roles. Veinbergs has the Patsy Cline look, done up with curly black hair and numerous changes of stunning outfits. She does more than justice in imitating Cline’s singing style, replicating her unique way of allowing her voice to seemingly crack while sliding through the scale. Veinbergs scorches Cline’s ballads (“Sweet Dreams”, “Crazy”, “I Fall To Pieces”, “She’s Got You”) and turns in outstanding renditions of standards and other artists’ hits (“Blue Moon of Kentucky”, “Stupid Cupid”, “Lovesick Blues”, “True Love”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Bill Bailey”).
Complimenting Veinbergs’ impressive performance while contributing a truly noteworthy one of her own is Sonja Marquis as Louise Seger. It’s the perfect marriage of actor and character, perhaps the part of Marquis’ career. She’s a wonderful mix of traits: brazen and sassy, confident, lovable, and a bit racy. She wears Seger’s love for Cline like a halo, yet isn’t afraid to mix it up with the four piece band (The Bodacious Bobs) or members of the audience.
The set, (by Kristen Gribben) allows easy movement between a bright, colorful 1950’s kitchen, the bandstand where Veinbergs/Cline works her magic, and the C&W bar where the two first meet. The costumes, in all their sequined, buckskinned, and floral print glory, are by Sharon Larkey Urick. Props are by Anne Donevan with lighting by Andrew Galicki. Music director is Dan Mikat.
If you’re too young to remember Patsy Cline and her songs have somehow managed to slip under your radar, Veinbergs vocals will make you a fan. Marquis’ performance will make you remember how gloriously funny comedy can be when practiced by a true craftsman of the art. Both have moments in the show when the stage belongs to them and them alone.
“Always…Patsy Cline” is a don’t-miss-er, a musical accompanied by a laugh track and a comedy with the most heavenly of soundtracks. Two thumbs up, four stars, and a standing ovation for “Always…Patsy Cline” and The Encore!
“Always…Patsy Cline” is directed by Thalia V. Schramm. The show runs through May 8th. Tickets are available by calling the theatre’s box office at 1.734.268.6200 or visiting their website at www.theencoretheatre.org/tickets. The Encore Musical Theatre is located at 3126 Broad Street in the historic village of Dexter. Take I-96 west and exit at Baker Street.