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THEATER REVIEW: "Always...Patsy Cline"

Country music star Patsy Cline had a short but meteoric career that included recording Willie Nelson’s favorite cover of his song “Crazy.” She was also the first woman in country music to both perform at Carnegie Hall and headline her own show in Las Vegas.

Not bad for a girl who couldn’t read music and is quoted as saying “I don’t know what key I sing in.” But she had a rich alto voice and a way of getting across a song that endeared her to millions of fans.

Ted Swindley’s two-hander “Always ... Patsy Cline” (playing through July 26 at OnStage Playhouse) isn’t as much about her career as it is about how much Cline needed a friend, and how that friendship began.

Fear not, this isn’t a tear-jerking “I need a friend” story. And woven into the story of this friendship are 20-plus songs, delivered beautifully by Debbie David, whose lovely voice does these iconic songs justice.

The story is told mostly through the voice of superfan Louise Seger (Susan Bray), who first heard Cline on the radio in her Houston home. “My God,” she reports thinking. “She sang like I’d always wanted to sing.”

Louise began calling DJ Hal Harris every morning to request Cline songs. One day at work, her boss told her Cline would come to Houston for a show. She announced to her boyfriend that they were going. Even her boss was interested.

With that, she launches into the details of their first meeting and almost instant friendship – including taking Cline to negotiate with the site manager for the two shows she finally did that night in Houston.

It’s a charming, even touching story of a friendship. But you’re there for the music, and you won’t be disappointed. David has a rich, even booming alto voice that wraps itself around a song, and the diction to deliver it.

Kudos to the “Bodacious Bobcats,” aka band, a talented five-member group that includes Tim “Steel Bone” Cook on the pedal steel guitar and trombone (watch for the unusual item he uses as a mute).

Although David gets to sing all those songs, the night belongs to Bray, who gets to tell the story and is utterly convincing as the superfan. Watch for a faraway look in her eyes when a Cline song comes on the radio; listen to her tell how important it was to her to get to those letters from Cline.

This is a show for Cline fans, told simply on a multi-use set designed jointly by Director Melinda Gilb, Chad Oakley and Bruce Wilde.

Pam Stompoly-Ericson does a fine job on costumes, reflecting Cline’s change from the fringed, cowboy-hatted look to the more elegant cocktail dress look Cline adopted after she’d crossed over from country to pop music.

Xavier Luevano’s lighting design and Matt Warburton’s sound make solid contributions as well.

Cline died much too young (at 30, in a plane crash) but left a an enviable legacy. Gilb and her cast do a fine job of honoring her memory.

The details

“Always...Patsy Cline” plays through July 26, 2015 at OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Avenue (near F Street), Chula Vista.

Show times are: Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (619) 422-7787 or www.onstageplayhouse.org

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.