Friday, March 22, 2019

“Always” Go See Ilika and Jaeger in “Always…Patsy Cline”

Cayman Ilika and Kate Jaeger in Always...Patsy Cline (Robert Wade)
Always…Patsy Cline
Taproot Theatre
Through April 6, 2019

“Anytime” I can hear Cayman Ilika sing like Patsy Cline and watch Kate Jaeger worship her in adorably fanciful ways, “I Fall in Love” and go “Crazy” and want to “Come On In and Sit Right Down” and give them both “True Love!”

Seriously folks! This is the shit! These two did the expertly-crafted musical homage, Always…Patsy Cline by Ted Swindley, back in 2009 and were terrific. I have remembered it very fondly over the years, and I’m pretty sure it was my first exposure to Ilika and her luscious, smooth, and warmly comforting voice.

I was so excited to know they were remounting it now, partly because I could see them do it again, but also because I expected it to be even better than before. Both Ilika and Jaeger have deepened their acting skills and confidence and stage presence, of course. Also, they’ve had more life experiences that can be reflected in Patsy’s songs. Ilika has become a mommy, and that has to deepen the songs about family and the parts of the play that talk about Patsy’s family.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed in the least! It’s a real treat to tell you about this piece and encourage you to go see it. It’s a true-life story about Louise Seger, a young single mother in Texas who described sitting up and taking notice immediately upon hearing Patsy’s voice on the radio singing her first hit. She started calling the local radio DJ and demanding that he play Patsy Cline every day!

When she found out that Patsy was coming to town, she dragged a bunch of co-workers there early enough to get perfect seats and they were sitting there when a young woman wandered in and started looking around. Louise got up the courage to go ask if she was “Miss Cline” and it turned out she was and it was one of her very first gigs! Louise ended up taking her home and helping her get to the train for Cline’s next gig. This started a long friendship and letter-writing relationship.

There are a lot of homage musicals around these days, as people have created one for Cher, Donna Summer, Janis Joplin, and of course, ABBA (Mamma Mia, anybody?). But they are tricky. Setting the songs up in an order that works and makes sense, and creating some kind of flow is crucial. This particular homage never feels strained or out-of-sync. It encapsulates Patsy’s biggest hits, and entwines a few of them into the relationship, not always on stage or on tv or radio.

The story is pretty simple and brings out the astonishing fact that Patsy Cline really only had six years of fame before a tragic airplane crash took her from us. To the extent that we still know so many of her hits, that’s a pretty amazing career.

Ilika and Jaeger are perfect foils for each other. Jaeger’s “everyday woman” expresses such awe that this talented celebrity could be such a “normal” person. Jaeger’s enthusiasm for the superfan role is palpable. She dances enthusiastically to the upbeat songs. Occasionally, she gets to chime in with singing and is no slouch in that department, either. While Ilika is hands down one of the best singers in town, Jaeger is one of the funniest!

Karen Lund’s direction moves everything along smoothly and the small band, the Bodacious Bobcat Band playing on stage (Claire Marx or Julia Thornton piano/conducting, Olivia D. Hamilton bass, Jesse Whitford percussion, Justin S. Davis guitar, Dave Harmonson pedal steel) make this concert musical feel quite real. Brynne McKeen’s costuming is particularly nice with quite a lot of costume changes inserted and some beautiful dresses for Cline’s concert performances.

If there was something to tweak the show on, it’s the sound mix that ends up with the band overshadowing Ilika’s singing when she hits low notes or sings softly. Certainly, her mike could be turned up. We’d love to hear more of her.

If you have a woman in your life who is age-appropriate to have fallen in love with Patsy at the time, this might be a terrific early Mother’s Day present, but no one needs to feel like they should know Patsy Cline hits to enjoy the show. This is totally all-ages appropriate and a darn good time!

For more information, call 206-781-9707 or go to www.taproottheatre.org

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