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Cline would probably like this

It has to be difficult to do Patsy Cline well, especially in a place like Texas, where there is little to no margin for error.
Even my neighbor, a man beyond my years with taste more modern than my own, knows Patsy Cline.

Cline’s music has a spirit that reverberates along the spine of the Texas culture, with both men and women hearing her messages loud and clear and taking them deeply to heart. Even the least of her listeners are likely able to sing the entirety of “Walkin’ After Midnight” without a second thought.

The Ennis Public Theatre has taken up the challenge of Cline’s persona admirably. The production of Always … Patsy Cline entering its third weekend this Friday is well executed and innovative, considering the small space with which director Bill Rhoten has to experiment. Having a full band tucked into the nooks and crannies of the stage is no small feat, either, especially considering that a good majority of them stand for the 2-hour plus performance.

As in any two-person show like this, the casting makes the difference. Here, Rhoten pulls on considerable knowledge and resources within the community, sliding two women into the roles of Patsy and Louise who inhabit those characters with all of the verve and creativity of the best Texas has to offer.

The show is made by the interplay that Sandra Mahood and Kiara Haubrick establish. Haubrick’s voice, a clear bell layered on top of the sweet recipe cooked up by the house band, is a delight for the audience and has the power of a woman who can raise the hair on the back of a man’s neck without breaking a sweat.

Mahood, a stage veteran who knows all too well the trials of the director’s chair, works doggedly to make her role as Louise communicate to every person in the audience. She danced with an elderly gentleman near the front row at the performance I was able to see two weekends ago, and he even snuck in a little kiss near the end of the first act that had the packed house in stitches.

It can’t be overstated that a lot of work went into the roles these two ladies present to us as members of the Cline audience. Haubrick, who at the start of rehearsals was not intimately familiar with the ins and outs of Cline’s music, had perhaps the most uphill of the challenges presented to cast and crew.

How does one breathe life into a woman dead for nearly half a century whose music is iconic, even legendary in its pervasiveness in a culture that all but canonized her?

She shouldered the burden like the bright young person that she is. When I asked her how it felt to take on Cline’s music, all she could tell me was it was a challenge that excited her. If you go see her sing in this show, you’ll be able to see that much just watching her.

I’d recommend it. There have been a number of positive reviews from me on shows coming out of the Ennis Public Theatre, and I’ll admit that my “neutral reporter” persona takes a backseat to the community theater lover in me when I step through the doors to Ennis’ best kept little cultural secret. This show is perhaps the best I’ve seen at the theater, and the quality of the performances there is always stellar, considering resources and space.

To me, the theater is in the perfect position to grow. People are growing tired of the canned up culture that network television and popular distractions present to them, and community theaters like Ennis’ are a perfect outlet for the creativity and connections that so many of us look for in a small city.

To their credit, they’re working the space available to them to its absolute limits. I’ve heard some quiet conversations about the theater’s attempts to acquire property in a more central and visible location, and I think it’s a great idea. The next step for EPT is to move into a space with about double or triple the seating and the stage capacity to really shine.

Nick Todaro is the editor of the Ennis Daily News. He can be reached at nick@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Apr 28 2010. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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