Theater Review by Howard Steven Frydman
Production: Always…Patsy Cline
Theater: The Sharon Playhouse
Written by: Ted Swindley
Director: Alan ML Wager
“It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de lovely, it’s “Always…Patsy Cline” and it’s currently a true happening – not to be missed event at the iconic Sharon Playhouse, in Sharon, Connecticut, starring Alison Arngrim and Carter Calvert, where during my most recent visit, a summer thunderstorm, turned this summer outing into what I lovingly call a “happening” – being at the right place at the right time and witnessing a true “you shoulda been here” – krackle in time- moment.
I’ll get back to the “happening” in a bit – but “holy moly” – I picked “the” perfect time for my very first visit to the Sharon Playhouse, believe you me folks, I was impressed – Mighty Impressed, by the theater, the staff and of course the venue, and now that I know my way, it surely won’t be my last.
WELL LET ME TELL YOU – from the “get go” this production of the musical, “Always …Patsy Cline”, created and originally directed by Ted Swindley, about country music legend Patsy Cline and based on a “True Story” of a life-long friendship between two BFF’s gets the “Howard’s Coveted “Must See” Award”, not only for its two illustrious stars, but for its vibrant production headed by Managing Director Robert Levinstein, (who was kind enough to give me a private tour of the Playhouse) and Artistic Director Alan M-L Wager.
“Our stars”- firstly that “sweet serenader”, Broadway and recording artist, Carter Calvert who brings Patsy Cline, heart and soul, truly to life – I could listen to her sing all night long- as she delivers stunningly so many of Cline’s hit songs including “Sweet Dreams”, “I Fall To Pieces” and “Crazy” – which was written by country star Willie Nelson. And now Alison Arngrim, you know mean queen “Nellie Oleson” of TV’s Little House on the Prairie fame- WELL LET ME TELL YOU- she is one of the most sweetest, talented, nicest persons I have ever met, and a big big star in France!! In fact I met Alison through my friend, famed playwright Jacques Lamarre, a few years back when I produced a televised visit of Alison to the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT – “Mark Twain Meets Alison Arngrim” – where she discussed her childhood, her parents – did you know her mother was the voice of “Casper the Ghost”, her friendship with fellow “Prairie” co-star Melissa Gilbert and her New York Times best selling book, “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch.”
“HOW AH YA, HOW AH YA, HOW AH YA?” – with a look similar to ‘50’s puppet TV star Howdy Doody – red-headed Arthur Godfrey was truly today’s Ryan Seacrest – he did it all including his Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts featuring amateur entertainers making their national television debuts including Pasty Cline (Carter Calvert) – where she wows the studio audience with her performance of the now-classic “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Listening on the TV that night to Cline’s performance in 1957 – Houston, Texas housewife Louise Seger (Alison Arngrim), which sets into motion, Seger becoming Cline’s number one fan, their confirmed enduring friendship, from their first meeting at Houston’s Esquire Ballroom, Patsy’s stay at Louise’s home and their long lasting correspondence, until Cline’s 1963 death in a plane crash, where Patsy ended her letters to Louise with the endearing “Always…Patsy Cline”.
Folks – “Always…Patsy Cline”- has two acts, with a 15 minute intermission. And now a stormy second act and a “Happening” takes place – thank god for thunderstorms and the rainbows that they produce! For when something goes “oh so wrong” but makes something “oh so better” – stunningly better, making one honestly acknowledging that you are witnessing, with you at seats edge, pure, thrilling, TALENT!! And I was so so glad to be here at the Sharon Playhouse to see it and account for this “Happening”.
Kaboom!!- a summer storm, lights dim, KABOOM!!- heavy rain , KRACK – lights fail, AC off, the Sharon Theater is completely dark and oh so quiet. UH-OH – what to do? The six member on stage band quickly begins to play as heavy rain knocks on the theater’s roof- thoughts of the Titanic quickly comes to mine. Directors Levinstein and Wager are at the quick, setting up candles, led lights and even cell phones, just about anything to illuminate the darken stage. The show will continue, for soon, I also along with a grateful audience will be witness to greatness!
Our two dynamic stars, Calvert and Alison, sans microphones, stage lights, props- take center stage on two bar stools and perform – nay not perform, but fully open up to this audience with their impressive talent and continue with the production- “Always…Patsy Cline”. We are riveted by their impromptu seated performances. I take note that folks are at rapt attention, leaning forward from their seats, smiling, inwardly knowing that they are part of a once in a lifetime Happening seeing these multi-talented ladies on stage – continuing on without a second glance – IN THE DARK!
THEY ARE SENSATIONAL – what a set of pipes on Calvert and Alison is a comedic genius- bravo to both ladies! Huge thunderous standing ovations.
Please folks- take the time to see these duo dynamic powerhouses- it’s pure joy – you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sing, and just like me – you’ll kvell! I am truly honored to be able to tell the tale of the Sharon Playhouse Blackout of ‘18 and introduce you to an exciting new theater venue in Sharon, Connecticut. Enjoy!
“Always…Patsy Cline” is currently being produced at the Sharon Playhouse. For more information about the theater and the season of shows, visit http://www.SharonPlayhouse.org or call the Box Office at 860-364-7469 ext 200.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.