A Closer Walk with patsy cline

Written by Dean Regan
Directed by Wade Lynch
Musical direction by Christopher Mounteer
Performed by Tracey Flye, Mark Weatherley
Playhouse II, Grand Bend
July 6 to August 28, 2004
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Take a walk to the ‘Bend to see Patsy Cline…

First, a disclaimer – I’ve never been a fan of country music, nor did I know much about Patsy Cline. So I wasn’t expecting to enjoy “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline”, which is currently on stage at Playhouse II at Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend. Well, surprise – it’s a great show, even for those whose musical tastes may differ.

Patsy Cline was the Shania Twain of the of late 50’s – early 60’s. She worked hard at a young age to become a country singer, and her recordings even crossed over to the pop charts;

Tracey Flye as Patsy has a wonderful, powerful voice, and I overheard audience members commenting that she looked and sounded like the real thing. She seemed to be truly enjoying herself on stage, also like Patsy. Flye sings 20 Patsy Cline hits, including favourites such as “Walkin’ after Midnight”, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, “Lovesick Blues” and Willie Nelson’s “Crazy”.

Supplying the comedy is Mark Weatherley as The Little Big Man, a disc jockey at radio station WINC in Winchester, Virginia where young Patsy got her start (when her name was still Virginia Hensley). Weatherley originated this role when “A Closer Walk” first opened at the Vancouver Arts Club in 1991. As the audience files into the theatre, the disc jockey greets them, and they become his live studio audience. Weatherley was excellent at improv in chatting with audience members. He also switched costumes to play several other roles – a hilarious hillbilly at the Grand Ole Opry, a Las Vegas lounge comedian, and a fellow country singer.

Costumes and wigs to recreate the original look were very good. Costume designer Wade Lynch changed Patsy from a demure pink sundress, to fringed cowgirl, and finally Carnegie Hall glamour.

The band backing up Flye was excellent – led by Christopher Mounteer on keyboards, with Jack Whiteside on guitar, Kim Ladd on bass and Ian MacKay on drums. Ladd, who was a Cricket in “The Buddy Holly Story” at Huron Country Playhouse last summer is excellent, as is Whiteside, who makes his guitar weep like a country steel guitar.

The songs are presented in chronological order, and through the D.J.’s narration, the audience learns the story of Patsy Cline. Sadly, her life was cut short at the height of her career when she was killed in a plane crash March 5, 1963. This production is a tribute to her work.

The Playhouse II audience, mostly in the 60-plus age range, was very appreciative. When Flye concluded a song, there were murmurs of “Wow”, “She’s good”, and “Oh, boy”, from the full house, who were obviously enjoying reminiscing. Such nostalgic trips always prove popular and “Closer Walk” is no exception.

“A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline” runs through to August 28. Tickets available at the Huron Country Playhouse box office at (519) 238-6000 or Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463.


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