Now playing at the Hackmatack Playhouse in North Berwick is the musical “Always … Patsy Cline,” written by Ted Swindley. The Playhouse is now in its 48th season.

The Cline show has but two performers plus an instrumental group of six.  That they are all really gifted and “into” the genre of what is known as Country Music is obvious (at least to this listener) from the start. The singers/actresses are Emily Whitlow (as Cline) and Molly Fenn (as her adoring fan, Louise Seeger.) The instrumentalists include: piano/leader William Asher; Bass, Tom Jeffrey; Drums, Matt Walsh; Guitar, Jeff Line; Steel Guitar, Daniel Beller-MeKenna; and Fiddle, Marlow Hubbard.

During the course of the show, Ms. Whitlow sings 27 songs popularized by Cline. Ms. Whitlow has mastered what in music is known as the “crease,” a technique associated (for ill) by many Italian opera singers as well as some cantors of a previous generation. Ms. Whitlow’s brassy voice was ideal for belting out most of these songs. In some of them she is joined by Ms. Fenn.  These duets were especially well performed as well as received by the audience.  However, in the song “If I Could See the World Through the Eyes of a Child,” Whitlow showed that she could sing a tender ballad and could also act.

For those of my readers NOT of a certain age, Patsy Cline was one of the first female singers to record (Decca) and popularize Country Music in the late l950’s and early l960’s. The texts of music for female vocalists usually concerned themselves with unfaithful men and the unhappiness of those they left behind. The text of the encore sung at the end of the show was unusual in that the lady proclaimed: “I know I done you wrong.  I’ll do the cookin’ honey, I’ll pay the rent. Bill Bailey won’t you please come home!” Another exception in this genre was the song “True Love” by Cole Porter, again chosen I suspect to offer variety to the hardy two-beat rhythmic beats which Ms. Whitlow had to perform as Cline.

The plot of the show more or less could be thought of as a clothesline on which the singers could sing the many songs for which Ms. Cline is remembered.  Of these, such as “Anytime,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” are tunes that this reviewer fondly recalls.

The plot concerns Ms. Seeger, a divorced Houston housewife who was a devoted fan of Ms. Cline. She recalled seeing Ms. Cline on the Arthur Godfrey show in l951. (Godfry was a very popular radio and TV show host.) When Seeger learned that Ms. Cline was going to appear in a “Honky-Tonk” nearby, she convinced her boss and her boyfriend to take her there, making a point to arrive hours early. There she met Cline, learned that she was slated to sing for over four hours. Outraged, she went with Cline to see the owner of the establishment and had her singing time reduced to two shows, one at 9:30 p.m. and the other at 11:30 p.m.. She invited Cline for a home-cooked meal and the lonely Cline agreed and even slept over. Seeger even got a local disk jockey to interview Cline before she left. Cline and Seeger kept up a correspondence where Cline always closed with the phrase, “Always … Patsy Cline.” Ms. Fenn has a sweet voice and introduced many of the songs. This was so artfully done, that one didn’t tire of just seeing and hearing two performers all the time. Credit here justly goes to the skill of the band, but especially to the direction of Danica Carlson. The lighting (Tayva Young) was effective though some spots were late at times. The Music Director for this show was Biana Pietro who must have been very pleased with her efforts.

There was but one set, but the Designer ‘s (Dane Leeman) recreation of a 1950’s kitchen was right on. Fran Bechtold as Costume designer did herself proud as Ms. Whitlow’s costumes (cowgirl, evening gown, daytime ensemble) were realistic and flattering to Ms. Whitlow at the same time. The show runs through June 27, with performances June 19 to 22,  and June 26t to 29, shows  are at 8 p.m., with matinees on June 20 and 27. For reservations, call 698-1807 or visit for tickets.

— Dr. Morton Gold is a composer/conductor, retired educator and an arts reviewer for the Journal Tribune.

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