When is it not a pleasure to hear a Patsy Cline song come on the radio,TV or out of the shuffle of your mp3 player? There is something pure and simple and just right about the recordings the Virginia singer made during her relatively brief career. Her country crossover music still connotes the intimacy of roadhouses and barn dances on warm summer nights.

Part of her enduring popularity though, long after her death at age 30 in 1963, is the fact that she was one of the first music stars to gain wide exposure through the emerging mass media of her era.

In putting together this production of the song-filled “Always…Patsy Cline” to kick off the 52nd season of the Maine State Music Theatre, director Chan Harris has sought to bring out both the folksy and the grander elements contained within the singer’s legend.

Ted Swindley’s script, based on the true story of the unlikely friendship between Cline and a single mom from Houston, Texas, fits in with every fan’s fantasy of being a pal to their show-biz idol (we’re talking about healthy fantasies here). The fan in this case is Louise Seger, a working class gal who got a job as an electronics technician because “we can’t all be hairdressers.”

As played by Charis Leos, Seger is a brassy babe who views most of the men in her life as dumb but necessary and likes to brag about how her jeans “fit like a glove.” She’s all over the multi-level stage (and into the audience) dispensing corn pone humor and good cheer to anyone who will listen. We’ve all seen this act before, maybe in person performed by someone we know, but it all works well and the capacity audience at Sunday’s matinee ate it up.

Of course, the main attraction, but not by that much, is Patsy herself. As played by Jenny Lee Stern, she’s sweet but also savvy in ways that make it possible to conceive of her being as comfortable in a down-home kitchen as she was on national TV or in a Vegas club, where she is shown performing in an evening gown and fur stole.

There are 27 solos and duets in this two-hour show. Stern doesn’t quite have the power pipes of the original, but she seemed to struggle through the phrasing of only a couple of tunes Sunday. Backed by an onstage sextet featuring fiddle and pedal steel guitar, she was most effective on pieces such as “Crazy,” “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”

Harris’ use of projected video enhanced the point of Cline’s cultural significance in addition to providing a sort of jukebox light show on a couple of tunes.

If you would like to hear Patsy Cline tunes, sung quite respectfully and with considerable spirit, surrounded by folksy humor delivered with a twang, this show definitely, as they say, gets it done.

 

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.