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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Review: ‘Always…Patsy Cline’ pure joy at Women’s Theater Company in Parsippany

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The Women’s Theater Company, the gem of a professional theater company located in Parsippany, has again reminded us of the impressive live theater we have on this side of the Hudson. The WTC's Parsippany Playhouse (a cosy, comfortable black box theater) has been home for just eight performances (June 1-7) of the musical 'Always…Patsy Cline' starring Patricia Durante as Patsy with Barbara Babbitt as her fan and friend Louise Segar. These two ladies are a "dynamic duo."

First, Patricia Durante (top photo), one of our most talented actresses, demonstrates her fine vocal ability in singing 27 songs, including Patsy's biggest hits Crazy, I Fall to Pieces, Sweet Dreams and Walking After 11289483_10153026142708577_7328448327140570429_o Midnight. For the better part of 90 minutes she IS Patsy Cline....the costumes, the brunette wig, the movements and, of course the voice. This is the same Patricia Durante that four years ago on this very same stage starred in "Enchanting April." In our review, we wrote "Ms. Durante, who bears a striking resemblance to Deborah Kerr including the red hair, is in one word "enchanting." Well, she enchants us again in "Always...Patsy Cline." Equally impressive is Barbara Babbitt as the avid fan who narrates the proceedings. She is a marvelous performer who perfectly handles the balance between humor and sadness.

Don't remember Patsy Cline? For country music fans she is an iconic star the equal of Elvis Presley, one of the first female stars of the The Grand Ole Opry and the first female solo artist  inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

 10981350_10153025193358577_6302445567901262570_o The musical was created in 1988 in Houston, Texas by a local artistic director, Ted Swindley. Swindley cleverly presents Patsy to us not with a chronological bio (struggling amateur to national star format) but via a true story of her friendship with Houston housewife Louise Seger (Barbara Babbitt). Seger, having first heard Cline on CBS Radio's "Arthur Godfrey Show" in 1957, became an immediate and avid fan of Cline's and daily hounded a local radio disc jockey to play Cline's records. (Nit-picker alert...the prop mike used in the Godfrey scene has the wrong network...NBC). In 1961, Segar met Cline at a honky-tonk ballroom in Houston and developed a a friendship that lasted until Cline's untimely death in a plane crash in 1963.

"Always...Patsy Cline" is 90 minutes of simple, pure joy. Not a country fan? Fear not, Patsy's music covers several genres...country, romantic pop, gospel and soft rock offering something for everyone.

The WTC creative team is led by producer Barbara Krajkowski, director Grayce Coviello, musical staging Lauren Moran Mills, stage manager Brian James Grace, set design/construction Jonathan Wentz, lighting design Nick Downham, costumes France's Harrison, sound Larry Wilbur, and props  Erica E. Conrad.

11357100_10153025193258577_2008335281012309838_o The excellent three member band is billed as "The Bodacious Bobcats Band." The members are Regan Ryzuk piano, Marco Vitali fiddle/guitar and Tim Metz bass.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio    June 6, 2015

Women’s Theater Company is located at The Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Parsippany, NJ.  The Executive Artistic Director is Barbara Krajkowski. For more information contact 973-316-3033, or email info@womenstheater.org.

The Women’s Theater Company is a member of the New Jersey Theater Alliance.  Funding for the Women’s Theater Company has been made possible in part by funds for the Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Art/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

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