A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline

Capitol Theatre, Port Hope

Sam Moffatt

Joe Szekeres

Crazy for Patsy Cline

A lovely evening at the theatre with an ending that I knew was coming but it still hit all the feels.

What an incredibly smart decision Port Hope Capitol Theatre Artistic Producer Rob Kempson made in selecting ‘A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline’ to open the summer 2022 season.

And what a delightful treat to bring audiences back to the theatre. Although I’ve never seen the show before, there were moments when I could feel a big ol’ smile slide right across my face. There was a couple who sat in front of me, and the lady was swaying back and forth with her hands in listening to the music. I looked across the aisle and saw another lady doing the same thing.

You go, girls. I hope more audience members do that as the show continues.

Once again, the power of theatre reached inside and touched these two ladies. I wish we weren’t wearing masks because it would have been wonderful to see the smiles on their face.

I was glad Rob Kempson (director of ‘Closer Walk’) spoke to us before the performance began because he gave some noteworthy information that I believe theatregoers should be aware. For the Capitol’s production, Anna Treusch’s Set and Costume Designs were particularly constructed for this performance run only to June 26. Sometimes, touring productions or productions may state that sets and costumes have to be consistent as per the wishes possibly of writers.

Not here.

Kempson unmistakably cares about this show because he has paid loving attention to so many particulars to ensure realistic believability. There is a definite purpose and a reason behind why the plot progresses in the way it does. He has surrounded himself with some very fine artists who have done their job, quite admirably I might add.

Treusch’s set and costumes are exquisitely breathtakingly bathed in colour. I’ve never been to the Grand Ole Opry and would love to get there sometime. For some reason, I felt as if I was looking at the Opry stage. I couldn’t take my eyes off the set when I sat down as I just studied where my eyes went all over drinking it in slowly.

The production is set on risers. At Centre stage, there are circular risers with the top slightly raked to allow for visual purposes when Cline sings. Stage left is the four-piece band. Stage right is the radio station where DJ Little Big Man sits. Nick Andison’s Lighting Design meticulously captures a grandiose feeling of the playing space which is effectively lit for each of the numbers where Cline moves on the stage to sing. Kudos to Ben Whiteman’s Sound Design as I could clearly hear each word of each song. This is one area for which I will nitpick because songs tell stories and if an audience cannot clearly hear a song lyric, they are missing part of the story.

Treusch’s costume designs for Patsy Cline are striking to behold as attention has been paid to minute details in fabric, hues, tones and style. The band is dressed in solid bright colours with fringe either along the bottom of their shirts or under their elbows to their arms.

Dean Regan’s story is billed as “A stunning tribute to one of country music’s greatest stars.” That it is, but it’s also a sweet, poignant story that didn’t veer towards the melodramatic near the end if you know what happened to Cline.

It’s 1963 when we meet WINC D J Little Big Man (primo, top-notch work by Tyler Murree) who introduces many of the musical numbers before Cline sings. Murree also sings many of the commercial radio jingles and tells sometimes corny or hilarious jokes to the audience which allows for Michelle Bouey, as Patsy Cline, to change into her costume backstage for the next song. Murree also gives important contextual historical information to frame the song for the audience as well.

As Patsy Cline, Michelle Bouey divinely captures the soulful and spiritual sound and persona of the 60s country music songstress with confidence . There are some lovely tunes in the first act, but it is in the second act where Bouey sings the numbers for which Cline will always be remembered. I closed my eyes during ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee’ as I wanted to hear both the music and the words of the song. ‘Always’ brought a tear to my eye as it was a timely anthem sung for Cline’s mother and for all mothers as far as I’m concerned. ‘Crazy’ gave me goosebumps just listening to Bouey’s soaring vocal work.

What also makes this production work are the shared moments between Bouey and Murree. While she lovingly croons and harmonizes at the microphone or anywhere on the stage, he never upstages her at all. If it’s a fast-paced song, Murree moves in time to the music. If it’s a slow-moving ballad, his focus is on Bouey all the time.

These are artists who get how to listen and respond truthfully to each other.

Jeff Newbery’s splendid music direction combined with the stellar four-piece band complements the story told.

Final Comments A delightful evening at the theatre. This ‘Closer Walk with Patsy Cline’ is not to be missed.

Running time: Approximately one hour and 40 minutes with one intermission.

As of this article, Covid protocols are in place. Please call the theatre if you need further information regarding protocols and mask wearing.

‘A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline’ runs to June 26 at the Capitol Theatre, Mainstage, 20 Queen Street, Port Hope. For tickets, call 905-885-1071 or visit capitoltheatre.com.

A CLOSER WALK WITH PATSY CLINE by Dean Regan
Sanctioned by the Patsy Cline Estate
Director: Rob Kempson
Music Director: Jeff Newberry
Set and Costume Designer: Anna Treusch
Lighting Designer: Nick Andison
Sound Designer: Ben Whiteman
Stage Manager: Sarah Miller
Band: Tom Leighton (Keyboard/Organ), Jason O’Brien (Bass), Matt Ray (Guitars), Matthew Machanda (Drums)
Artists: Michelle Bouey and Tyler Murree

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