Nicole Cassesso steals show as Patsy Cline

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BY ANGELA HATCHER: Some may say that “Always… Patsy Cline” is more like a musical concert, and considering that the show features two hours of “Patsy” singing 25 or so songs from her catalogue, some folks may have a reasonable argument. However, it is the solid storyline and illustration of female bonding that wraps its soulful arms around this iconic songbird’s heart and takes the audience along her journey through music.

BY ANGELA HATCHER: Some may say that “Always… Patsy Cline” is more like a musical concert, and considering that the show features two hours of “Patsy” singing 25 or so songs from her catalogue, some folks may have a reasonable argument. However, it is the solid storyline and illustration of female bonding that wraps its soulful arms around this iconic songbird’s heart and takes the audience along her journey through music.

Based on a true story, it is not the legendary star herself who is our tour guide, but the story is told through the words of a fast talkin’ firecracker from Houston, Louise Seger. She heard Patsy’s golden voice on the Arthur Godfrey Show in 1957, and from that moment on, Louise was hooked.

After meeting Ms. Cline before one of her concerts, the two women bonded, and after a plateful of Louise’s home fried bacon and eggs and a pot of hot coffee, they immediately became fast friends.

Their friendship continued through letters and phone calls until Cline’s tragic and untimely death in the early ‘60s, and the show singularly revolves around these events. Even though their lives may have seemed worlds apart, “Always…Patsy Cline” is basically about this couple of homespun gals, Patsy and Louise. Patsy sings, while Louise does most of the talking!

Looking every bit the part, in the most beautiful ostentatious period costumes by Larry Watts and wig stylist Randall Jones, Patsy (Nicole Cassesso) and Louise (Dee Shandera) makes us yearn for late 50s/early 60s “upscale cowgirl chic” to come back in style.

With her Texas twang as sweet as a pecan pie and she looking every bit as sassy as her chili pepper red boots, Shandera proves that in her portrayal of the spitfire Louise, she is the perfect fit.

She has the art of friendly persuasion and she makes you want to fall in love with Patsy – even before you know what hit you.

It is an exceptional treat to settle in and hear Cassesso beautifully capture the full range of country headliner Patsy Cline’s songbook from gospel such as “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” to pop numbers like “Stupid Cupid,” and contagious heartbreakers like “I Fall to Pieces,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” or “Sweet Dreams.”

Whether it’s honky-tonk, country, traditional pop, gospel, rockabilly or swing, Cassesso’s expressive bold contralto and the rich timbre of her vocals mimic the music icon so flawlessly that fans old and new will unknowingly fall under her spell.

With the fine direction and musical direction of Damien Lorton, One More Productions’ musical revival is a rare gift in The Gem’s jewel box.

Lorton’s six-piece band, featuring Richard Abraham on piano, Tony Bernetich on guitar, Rebecca Lynn on fiddle, Nic Gonzalez on bass, Mike Malinow on drums, with Kelly Moore on steel guitar and is so infectious that audience members are shamelessly boot scootin’ up and down the theater aisles during the entrance music.

Wally Huntoon perfectly sets the stage with Louise’s homey kitchenette, the Grand Ole’ Opry setting, and a roadside honky-tonk.

This is a moving, fun-loving, crowd-pleasing musical that will have you convinced that you have just heard the real deal, and fans old and new will have a new appreciation for the legend and her music.

“Always… Patsy Cline”

The Gem Theatre

12892 Main St., Garden Grove

714-741-9550, ext 221.

 www.onemoreproductions.com.

Runs through May 1