Performed by Leisa Way and the Wayward Wind
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
August 31 to September 11, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Sweet Patsy Cline
Country music fans can treat themselves to a reincarnation of Patsy Cline’s sound at Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia. Anyone who enjoyed Hank Williams Live 1952 with Joe Matheson last year, will love Sweet Dreams: A Tribute to Patsy Cline with Leisa Way.
Leisa Way sings Patsy Cline’s songs but doesn’t try to pass herself off as Patsy. She talks about Patsy’s life and how the songs came about, as if she were Patsy’s best friend. In fact, Way relates all the information with a delightful southern twang, and greets the audience with a big “Howdy!”
Way has a strong stage presence and is very endearing in her presentation, bubbling with enthusiasm, and eager to share Patsy’s songs and stories. Way will be remembered at VPP for her hilarious part in Norm Foster’s The Long Weekend in 2008. She played opposite playwright Norm Foster himself in the comedic romp. Way also played several roles in Test Drive in 2006, where she showed her diverse acting talent. She continues to charm the audience in this production.
Way drawls her way though many pieces of interesting information about Cline: She talks about Patsy’s early years, getting her start on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Search, where she gained recognition with Walkin’ After Midnight. As a 13 year old, Patsy sang in what Way describes as “juke joints” and bars, which she should not have legally been in. In those early days, Cline called her genre Hillbilly music.
Way interjects with trivia and quotes such as Country Singer PeeWee King’s comments about Patsy: “She was never backwards about being forward.”
As Way describes the breakdown of Patsy’s first marriage, she sings Cheatin’ Heart. We also learn that Patsy’s real name is Ginny Hensley (named Virginia after her home state). She changed her name to Patsy after the early country singer Patsy Montana. Cline was her first husband’s name, the only useful thing he gave her. Way sings the Tammy Wynette song D I V O R C E, while she describes the end of Patsy’s first marriage.
We hear a litany of great hits – some more hillbilly with the slight yodel sound, others are pure country. But then there are several crossover songs. Cline moved into pop, even gentle rock and roll, and many of her songs had a bluesy sound. Way demonstrates her versatile voice by singing the Cline hits in various styles. A crowd favourite is the song Crazy. Patsy Cline was known for her husky deep voice filled with passion and Way has captured that sound.
While there isn’t any formal choreography, Way dances throughout. She has some charming moves in Stop, Look & Listen. Other times, she stands back to let the musicians play, but dances along with music.
Cline’s profession was cut short, when she was killed in a plane crash at age 30. However, Way enumerates the impressive achievements Cline had in her brief career. She was the first female county singer to be invited on American Bandstand with Dick Clarke, and was also the first female country star to headline a show at Carnegie Hall.
Way appears onstage in the first act wearing Cline’s trademark red cowboy shirt and skirt, complete with white fringe. In Act II, Way, like Cline, dresses up in sequins and sparkle.
Way travels with her own band, Wayward Wind. These four talented musicians do an excellent job of evolving along with the story. The only thing that could improve the music would be a steel guitar to capture that real old-time country music sound.
Sweet Dreams continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 11. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets, or visit www.thevpp.ca.