There has never been anyone else quite like Patsy Cline. I've never met anyone who dislikes her, nor even anyone who claims to be ignorant of or indifferent to her legacy. If it seems dissonant to think of her as a "superstar," it may be because her persona was so wholesome, so much an Everywoman. So trying to present her on the stage for a present-day audience is obviously a challenging job. Kudos, then, to Irene Jones, whose memorable work in the title role of Sweet Dreams of Patsy, currently being presented by Perrino Productions at the Ivory Theatre, more than meets our suspension of disbelief and takes by itself nearly all the credit for making an audience very happy.Now maybe Horror Show will finally realize how profoundly untalented she is. Then again, who am I kidding -- just look who we're talking about here, a woman less connected to reality than Courtney Love. It'll be someone else's fault. Just watch.
I hadn't known of Ms. Jones' work as a singer before this, and that's to my regret. Of course, if her singing could actually match that of Patsy Cline herself, she'd have left town for stardom long ago. But what Ms. Jones achieves is a surprisingly valid and compelling reproduction of Patsy Cline's interpretation: by turns subtle, energetic, contemplative, powerful, and vulnerable, always full of life, and always with a sense of ownership of whatever the song was. She hasn't quite the power at the bottom of her range or the control at the top as the real Pasty Cline had. That's a trivial observation, given how easy it is to forget about it as she channels that unique style and personality with such remarkable success.
Ms. Jones is also a talented actor, at least while she's singing. It would be enough that her physical type is comparable to Patsy Cline's, but in fact, part of what she delivers in the songs is a joy in singing that somehow seems to belong to the character rather than to the actor-singer, and that is a noteworthy acting accomplishment. But she's very poorly served by trite and implausible dialogue (written by producer Donna Perrino), and at least partly as a result of that, she comes off seeming to be less.
Steve Isom has a nice turn as Arthur Godfrey, and Judith MacDonald is entertaining as Minnie Pearl. Thom Crain, as the manager, Owen Bradley, has the burden of the dialogue and narration, and I think he does as well with it as anyone could, but again, it's too hackneyed to be acted well. The six-piece band (Justin Branum on fiddle; Tim Sullivan on piano; John Jump on guitar; Rich Smith on pedal steel; Jeremy Phieffer on bass, and KDHX's own Fred Gumear on percussion) makes the music feel effortless, which means, of course, that a lot of effort probably went into it, or a lot of talent, and the musicians' rapport with Ms. Jones seems very comfortable. The arrangements are credited to Ms. Perrino, though they mostly sound like decent by-ear reproductions of what's heard on the old Patsy Cline recordings. The sound engineering by Dan Kury is flawless. -- Daniel Higgins
Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor