"Always ... Patsy Cline" is on stage at the Okoboji Summer Theatre this week. It has been done here before. However, this is by far the best performance of the timeless play that I have ever seen anywhere. It is wonderful for many, many reasons.
Director Dan Schultz and musical director Tom Andes had the most talented group of people to work with; they must have felt like they were in a dream world.
We see the band during the entire show. Dressed in their white and baby blue cowboy shirts and boots, they may look the part of a country band but they were much more. Andes on piano, Rusty Elder on drums, Tim Schumacher on guitar, Sam Copeland on bass and Dalton Petersen on fiddle never missed a beat. They added much to the enjoyment of the show and actually played 27 songs throughout the evening.
If you were a theatre student at Stephens College doing a summer semester at OST, sing well and your last name begins with a B, you were likely to get one of three roles in the Bob-ettes, the backup singers for Patsy Cline. The trio of singers included Elyse Bertani, Emily Blake and Melanie Bosley.
While the set and props were good and the costumes perfectly suited to the musical, the real stars of this production are Katie Karel as Patsy Cline and Anna Stone as Louise Seger. These two professional actors played off each other with great timing through the entire show.
Karel has a phenomenal voice, is cute and extremely talented. I hope her voice lasts for eight performances because she really belts out some of those songs.
The story is about how Louise Seger came to meet and become good friends with Cline back in the 1950s. Stone is amazing as Louise. She is the true star of the show. Her antics, body language and facial expressions are totally hilarious. She is spunky, blunt and thoroughly delightful. Her performance alone is worth the price of the ticket. However Stone and Karel together is the best of the best.
You don't have to like country music to love this show from beginning to end. The story is touching. We all know the tragic ending but still want to see and hear what is in actuality a true story. Karel's rendition of "How Great Thou Art" and "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" had everyone mesmerized.
The story line gives us insight into how lonely life on the road can be for a performer. It tells us that fans can become friends. In the end, it gives us a chance to pay respect to a singing legend who died way too young. We leave admiring Louise Seger for following her passion and convictions to become Patsy's good friend and we understand better the life Patsy Cline led.
We laughed a lot, we sang along, we kept time to the music, we couldn't sit still. A five minute standing ovation was a clear indication we didn't want the evening to end. "Always ... Patsy Cline" is a must see. However, tickets are nearly gone. OST has added an additional matinee on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Five of the eight shows are completely sold out. A few tickets remain for the Thursday evening, Friday matinee and Friday evening performances only.
Thank you OST for a wonderful evening of musical theatre and to Stone and Karel for sharing your immeasurable talents with us. Bravo everyone!!