Patsy Cline tribute show lacks bal­ance

The Record (Troy, NY) - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Bob Goepfert For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

If you are a Patsy Cline fan you will love “Al­ways, Patsy Cline” which plays at the Cohoes Mu­sic Hall through Sun­day. If you never heard of the coun­try singer who was killed in a plane crash in 1963, you’ll prob­a­bly leave the show a big fan.

“Al­ways, Patsy Cline” is, at its heart, a Patsy Cline tribute show -- which turns the au­di­ence into a Molly Rose McGrath ad­mi­ra­tion so­ci­ety. The show re­quires McGrath to sing al­most 30 of Patsy Cline’s hits. While the singer cap­tures the fla­vor of Cline, it is not an im­per­son­ation. It is an im­pres­sive dis­play of McGrath’s vo­cal abil­i­ties, de­liv­ered by a woman with a gifted stage pres­ence.

How­ever, the show at­tempts to be more than a con­cert. By us­ing the char­ac­ter Benita Zahn, left, por­tray­ing Louise Seger, and Molly Rose McGrath, por­tray­ing Patsy Cline, are shown in a scene from “Al­ways, Patsy Cline” at the Cohoes Mu­sic Hall.

Louise Seger, who was a pen pal of Patsy, it hopes to show how the singer ac­tu­ally lived the lyrics of her bal­lads about strong women lov­ing the wrong men.

Per­formed with vi­tal­ity by Benita Zahn, Louise is

played as comic re­lief. She’s loud, sassy and filled with spunk. She’s one level from be­ing crude and al­ways de­mands she be the cen­ter of at­ten­tion.

Those traits not only sep­a­rate her from Cline’s gen­teel be­hav­ior - in per­for­mance they can be dis­tract­ing. The most se­vere ex­am­ple be­ing when Louise con­ducts the very fine 6-piece on­stage band led by mu­sic direc­tor Brian Ax­ford. The stag­ing of her over-the-top an­tics in front of the band is an­noy­ing in gen­eral, but fa­tal when they ruin the soft, ten­der and emo­tional “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”

Louise is Patsy’s num­ber one fan and was so be­fore the singer be­came a national star. The show cen­ters on one night when Louise at­tended a Patsy Cline con­cert with her boyfriend and her boss and she be­came Cline’s man­ager for the night. That evening Patsy stayed at Louise’s house. The two bonded so much that the singer would con­sis­tently send let­ters to Louise from the road. They were signed. “Al­ways, Patsy Cline.”

Un­for­tu­nately, direc­tor Chuck Strauss does not keep the two por­tray­als in bal­ance. Zahn’s broad, overly-an­i­mated por­trayal of Louise gen­er­ates a lot of laugh­ter, but it does so at the ex­pense of the show’s core – be­liev­ing the friend­ship be­tween the two women.

It’s al­most like there are two shows going on at the same time. Each has its own virtues, but no uni­fy­ing whole comes from the ef­fort. You leave the the­ater think­ing Molly Rose McGrath is a won­der­ful singer and Benita Zahn is a funny ac­tress. But you forget Patsy Cline and Louise Seger – and that is a loss.

“Al­ways, Patsy Cline” is pro­duced by Park Play­house at Cohoes Mu­sic Hall. Cohoes. Per­for­mances are Fri­day through Oct. 15. For tick­ets and sched­ul­ing in­for­ma­tion call (518) 4342035 or go to park­play­


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