Always, Patsy Cline: A Tribute Done Right

Cindy Summers

Go see Always, Patsy Cline at the Surflight.

If you see a lot of live theater and you're lucky, every once in a while you will see an actor at the top of his game; you will literally see a peak performance. It will be a performance you will think about and tell your friends about and remember fondly for years to come.

I'm telling you friend, go see Always, Patsy Cline at the Surflight. It stars (and I do mean stars) Cindy Summers as country singer Patsy Cline. Cline had an extraordinary voice. It had a sort of cry in it that was perfect for sad songs like "Crazy" and "I Fall to Pieces" but she could also rev it up to make a corny old tune like (Won't You Come Home) "Bill Bailey" into a joyous anthem. Summers nails Cline's sound but she does much more than that.

Here's the thing about Summers. From the moment this chick walks onto the stage and starts singing she owns the joint. She radiates joy and confidence and power. Like any good performer she connects with her audience and she wants you to have a good time. But it's going to happen because she's having a good time. If you don't have a good time, she seems to know, it's not her fault. She's giving it everything she's got.

Summers' sole cast mate is Misty Rowe as Louise Seger, a real-life fan whom Cline befriended in a Texas roadhouse one night in 1957. They became friends and pen pals until Cline's death in an airplane crash in 1963, only eight years after she had cut her first record. Rowe is best known for her 19 years on Hee-Haw. She sings too but her job is to be a perfect comic foil to Summers. Louise is a good ole gal—unpretentious, unassuming and very amusing. At one point she evens ventures into the audience and cajoles some of the men to dance a few steps with her. In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you I was one of them. I don't really go in for that sort of thing. I cringed a little when I saw her zeroing in on me. I'm shy and awkward in those kinds of situations. But what the hell. It was a bit of fun even if a few people gave me some good-natured ribbing at intermission.

Misty Rowe

Surflight's last show, My Way, was also a musical tribute to a great pop star. If you read my review you know I didn’t like that show at all. Everything that My Way gets wrong, "Always" gets right. This one has a storyline. This one has a star who could fill a room on the strength of her singing talent alone. This one has characters you can care about. Patsy and Louise were real people and Cindy Summers is a singer who can act (like Sinatra was, ironically enough) not an actor who can sing.

Cindy Summers and Misty Rowe

Like My Way, this production is backed by an excellent onstage combo. Unfortunately I couldn’t give My Way’s credit because the program didn’t even mention their names. This time I can tell you that the considerable talents of Surflight regulars Zach Jones on percussion, Jean Finstad III on bass, David Jones on guitar and a ringer the girls brought with them, John Widgren on pedal steel guitar, contributed to this memorable evening.

Summers and Rowe have been doing this show for years. I would have loved to have seen their very first performance together. Could they have been this good right off the bat? Probably not. All I know is that by the time I saw them, they had it down cold.

Go see Always, Patsy Cline at the Surflight.

At the Surflight September 21 - October 1, 2005 at 8:00 pm except September 26 and 27; September 22, 23, 25, 28, and October 2 at 2:00 pm.