Theatre review: A deep curtsy to country music in A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline

Sara-Jeanne Hosie captures essence of country music legend Patsy Cline

Sara-Jeanne Hosie stars in the title role in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.

Sara-Jeanne Hosie stars in the title role in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.

By Brent Schaus

arts@mondaymag.com

 

“It’s my fourth time seeing this show. I watch it every chance I get. I’m such a huge Patsy Cline fan that I wouldn’t miss it.”

So said a 70-something audience member after a recent performance of Blue Ridge Repertory Theatre’s  A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.

I’m confident that the majority of the people at the sold-out performance felt the same way, and for the same reasons: this stage musical is a jukebox packed with Cline tunes (and the odd Perry Como). “There He Goes,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Back in Baby’s Arms,” among many others, flow from the jukebox. It ably invokes Patsy Cline, her music and the historical milieu from which she walked. Fans of Patsy Cline won’t care, then, that the plot is as thin as a banjo string.

Sara-Jeanne Hosie as Cline, renders a performance that is less an impersonation and more a gesture. She captures Patsy’s vocal stylings and stage mannerisms like some saintly truck-stop waitress. Hosie’s voice is warm, and her charisma is such that you want to glide with her across a dance floor. Those looking for a copy of Patsy Cline will be disappointed; instead, Hosie offers a deep curtsy to the singing legend. As a result, her performance feels authentic, not stilted. Hosie, as Cline, is a treat, like vanilla ice-cream on hot apple pie.

Wes Borg is perfectly cast as Little Big Man: a character who provides the through-line (flimsy as it is), leading us through highlights of Cline’s career. He acts as a Southern corn-pone radio DJ, and as emcee for Cline’s shows at the Grand Ole Opry and Carnegie Hall. A beloved local comedian, Borg’s timing is fantastic and his improv chops get a bit of play, too. His emotional warmth comes through on several occasions, helping him to avoid a Foghorn Leghorn stereotype.

In spite of the strength of Borg’s performance, some of the most cringe-worthy moments come from his character. Little Big Man’s jokes illustrate the sexism of the time (“My wife is so fat…” etc., etc.), but with little sense of irony. Not Borg’s fault, it is a dilemma of a show like this: nostalgia for the music of a time and place is understandable. But this was also a time and place where segregation was rampant, and gender roles were, at best, traditional.

The choreography, created by Treena Stubel, is wonderful, and provides the single best “wink” of the evening. During “Back in Baby’s Arms,” two female dancers are “played” like cellos by their male partners. When they stray, but return, each female dancer receives a few rhythmic spanks on the rump. They’ve learned that their place is “Back in Baby’s Arms,” an instrument to be played. More subtle, witty choreography like this would have helped provide a bit of critical distance. Cline’s musical brilliance should be celebrated, yes, but let’s not turn back the clock on gender roles without a bit of reflection.

The band, too, is first-rate, humbly giving faultless back-up on piano, drum kit, fiddle, acoustic bass and steel guitar. As if that weren’t enough, they also provided back-up harmonies. Pianist and musical director Nico Rhodes gives Hosie a vital link to her band, keeping the show’s music smooth. Assembled for this production, I’d pay to see this band play anytime, anywhere.

Dean Regan is the creator of A Walk With Patsy Cline — approved by Cline’s widower Charlie Dick —  but the show’s librettist (you could say) is left uncredited. A big reason for the show’s popularity is the quality of the songs. Cline, like Elvis, wrote very few tunes herself. Donn Hecht, Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran and Don Gibson, among many others, penned these timeless songs, yet receive no mention or credit in Regan’s production. They should. M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island Symphony conductor Pierre Simard is releasing his new synthwave album ‘Plandemic’ on March 5. (Photo courtesy Olivia Simard)
Vancouver Island Symphony conductor releasing side-project EP of electronic music

Pierre Simard, recording as Plan Omega, presents ‘Plandemic’

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
Vancouver Island children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

This image released by SYFY shows Meredith Garretson, left, and Alan Tudyk in the new series "Resident Alien." (James Dittinger/SYFY via AP)
B.C.-shot ‘Resident Alien’ invader gets lift-off with viewers

New Syfy series catching on, proving TV doesn’t have to come from premium cable

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

West Coast-themed metal art by Nanaimo artists Hayley Willoughby (pictured), her father Jack and partner Blair LeFebvre is on display in the window of Lululemon at Woodgrove Centre from now until March 13 as part of the store’s monthly local artist program. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Metal artists present cross-generational show at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Work by Hayley Willoughby, her partner and father on display in Lululemon window

Vancouver Island Symphony principal violinist and concertmaster Calvin Dyck is among the musicians performing in the upcoming Salmon and Trout concert. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Vancouver Island Symphony will make a splash with fish-themed quintets concert

Performance was to take place in November but was rescheduled due to COVID-19

Nico Rhodes, Lucas Smart, James McRae and Kosma Busheikin (from left) recorded their set for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival’s online video series at the Harbour City Theatre in December. (Photo courtesy François Savard)
Music starts next week at online Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

Ten free, virtual performances to occur over three weeks in March

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
 The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
Victoria calls for artists to fill Commercial Alley gallery

Competition open to artists in the Capital Regional District

Cowichan Valley author Teresa Schapansky’s books for young readers have become a phenomenon on Amazon. (Submitted)
Cowichan author tops Amazon charts

Award-winning author Teresa Schapansky learned of a need for low-level readers in the classroom

Nadia Rieger restocks some of the art supplies at the Crows Nest Artist Collective. Their move to stocking more art supplies over the course of the pandemic was a response to increased demand, which she thinks shows people have been turning to creating art to cope with mental health struggles due to lockdowns and restrictions on other activities. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Vancouver Islanders using art to conquer COVID blues

It seems people have been turning to their creative sides to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Chris Bullock, Parksville artist, stands next to his ‘Mermother’ series, on display at the McMillan Arts Centre until Feb. 29. Bullock himself will be at the MAC from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Saturday until the end of the month. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Chris Bullock’s unique illustrations on display

‘I’m heavily influenced by old comic book styles from the 1950s’

Most Read