‘Always... Patsy Cline’ Review — Theo Ubique Packs a Big-Hearted Show into a Honky-tonk Music Box

 

Christina Hall as Patsy Cline

If you can ignore the aroma of Moo Goo Gai Pan from the Chinese take-out next door and disregard the fact that a costumed performer is serving you a beer at intermission, “Always... Patsy Cline” will transport you right to Houston, where the show began in 1988.

 

Simeon Tsanev (on fiddle), Christina Hall, Cesar Romero (on guitar)

In reality you will be in Rogers Park, just steps from the Red Line’s Morse station — and given the scarcity of parking in the neighborhood, the el is the best way to get there. To stage “Always…” Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre shoehorns 50 seats and a charming set designed by Adam Veness into the No Exit Café’s limited space. Just watch out that Patsy’s bouffant skirt (colorful costumes by Bill Morey) doesn’t knock over your drink.

 

Christina Hall singing a lullaby

Created by Ted Swindley for Houston’s Stages Repertory Theatre as a 45-minute cabaret piece and later converted into a full-length show that runs just under two hours, “Always…” circles tightly around a clever — and true — premise: the instant friendship of a spunky fan, Louise Seger, with her idol, Patsy Cline, that ensued when the two met at a Houston honky-tonk where Cline was performing. The country singer with crossover appeal followed up on their meeting with a warm correspondence cut short by Cline’s death at age 30 in a 1963 plane crash.

Danni Smith as devoted fan Louise Seger


Danni Smith makes for a lively, instantly likeable Louise, the one-woman fan club who ties the show together with sparkling patter and punctuates it with hip bumps. As Patsy Cline, Christina Hall brings unflagging energy and a well trained voice to crooning some two dozen songs, including Dan Hecht and Alan Block’s “Walkin’ After Midnight,” Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard’s “I Fall to Pieces” and Willie Nelson’s “Crazy.” But as lovely as Hall’s voice is, it sounds less like Cline’s and more like a 1940s torch singer’s, pulsating with vibrato, more nasal than country twang.

 

Christina Hall, Cesar Romero (on guitar), Cody Siragusa (on bass), Danni Smith

Smith and Hall are joined on stage by The Bodacious Bobcats: Aaron Benham on piano, guitarist Cesar Romero, drummer Scott Simon, Cody Siragusa on bass and Simeon Tsanev fiddling away — talented musicians all. Benham also serves as musical director, with Fred Anzevino providing stage direction. Maya Michele Fein paints the set with light, shifting the mood with the wattage.

 

 

Always... Patsy Cline

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at No Exit Café

6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago

Through Dec. 28, 2014

Tickets $29–$34 (discounts for students and seniors); dinner $25 with reservation; at Theo Ubique or 800-595-4849

 

Photos: Adam Veness

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