Patsy Cline lives — at the Milwaukee Rep
What made Patsy Cline sound like Patsy Cline?
Kelley Faulkner has figured it out. Faulker disappears into the singer in Always… Patsy Cline, Ted Swindley’s cleverly scripted revue, which the Milwaukee Rep opened Sunday at its Stackner Cabaret.
As Faulkner made her way through 25 Cline numbers Sunday evening, she showed command and understanding of the great singer’s expressive nuances. I can make a list:
1. starting about a quarter-tone below written pitch and sliding up to it, especially on emotionally charged words at the start or end of a phrase;
2. contrasting laser-straight tone with juicy vibrato;
3. contrasting edgy nasality with rounder, softer, more diffuse timbres;
4. careful placement of a variety of sobbing catches in the voice;
5. and little bursts of ornamental octave-jumping that don’t quite amount to yodeling.
So, do those five things and you, too, can sound just like Patsy Cline. NOT.
Faulkner also dug into the intangibles: Cline’s enormous vocal energy and her emotional commitment to the songs, be they about the joys or honky tonk life or the pain of love. The depth of Cline’s and Faulkner’s breath support reads as emotion rising from somewhere beneath the solar plexus. Faulkner’s precise impersonation did not feel like a copy; perhaps the act of immersing herself in Cline’s style instructed Faulkner in the nature of Cline’s sentiment. Whatever the means, Faulkner wasn’t faking the despair of Crazy, the giddy fun of Stupid Cupid, or for that matter the country-girl, matter-of-fact resignation of my favorite number of the night, Lovesick Blues.
Most listeners know Patsy Cline from the country done-me-wrong songs. Always… Patsy Cline shows that she sang a broad spectrum of songs. She put her own stamp on such Patti Page mainstream pop material as You Belong to Me, and many of her songs crossed over into rock ‘n’ roll. That in part explains how she broke out of the country music ghetto and sold lots of records in places like Detroit.
Iannone plays Louise Seger, a Houston fan who befriended Cline and became her frequent correspondent during the last five years of Cline’s life. Swindley wrote her as a sort of narrator, and she does give us some relevant facts of Cline’s life. But he also wrote her as a real character, in both senses of the phrase. Iannone, as usual, transforms herself completely, in this case into a loud, brash, Texas divorcee with a huge appetite for life. Louise is the sort of woman whose every wacky thought pops out of her mouth. She’s outrageous in a cheerful way and great fun to be around. No wonder Patsy Cline liked her instantly.
Production Credits: Director, Sandy Ernst; Costume designer, Alex Tecoma; Lighting Designer, Craig Gottschalk; Stage Manager, Sarah Hoffmann; Production Manager, Melissa Nyari Vartanian; Lighting and Sound director, Craig Gottschalk; Sound Designer, Erin Page; Technical Director, Tyler Smith; Properties Director, James Guy; Charge Scenic Artist, Jim Medved; Costume Director, Holly Payne.
Due to brisk advance ticket sales, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater has extended the run of Always… Patsy Cline through May 20. For tickets and the performance schedule, visit the Milwaukee Rep’s website or call the Rep box office, 414 224-9490.
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