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Center Stage

‘Always… Patsy Cline’ is Winterset Main Stage debut

5/14/2014

“Always... Patsy Cline” is a debut performance for the new Winterset Main Stage, 405 E. Madison, Winterset, which is an affiliate of the Des Moines Social Club. The show runs in Winterset through May 24 at 7 p.m. on Friday and 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“Always… Patsy Cline” is a debut performance for the new Winterset Main Stage, 405 E. Madison, Winterset, which is an affiliate of the Des Moines Social Club. The show runs in Winterset through May 24 at 7 p.m. on Friday and 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday.

At his keynote address for the launch of the Des Moines Social Club, David Byrne called for “a network” of similar venues. DMSC couldn’t do it alone. The arts in Iowa need other places to grow, he said. Well, how about Madison County? Down in covered-bridge country, the Social Club now has a baby sister, the Winterset Main Stage.

Another miracle of community spirit, a multi-purpose venue attached to a café, Main Stage has its own out-of-town angels. Cindy and Jason Stansbro quit their metro jobs and to pull together a foundation that would refurbish an old storage facility. The result invites a road trip: a covered bridge or two, pie at Northside Café (Clint Eastwood’s dish, in the movie “Bridges of Madison County,” which was filmed in Winterset) and perhaps a boilermaker at the Pheasant Run (the Blue Note, in the movie). Then, a walk to the show.

Before Friday’s performance, director Tom Milligan declared the whole inaugural lineup “a ton of fun.” He said “Always… Patsy Cline” proved to be an amiable jukebox musical. The debut show nearly sold out. The audience burst into applause for most numbers, and, at one point, a man at a table in front — a foursome sharing a bottle — jumped up to take a spin with one of the actresses.

The crowd also hooted for the joshing assertions of female empowerment. “Always… Patsy Cline,” after all, features two independent-minded women of the 1950s. The play was worked up out of letters between Cline and a Houston divorcée, Louise Seger, who helped the singer through a rough patch. Their give-and-take allows lots of room for music of a startling range of styles.

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Cline shared the same mindset as Elvis: She wanted everything. “Crazy,” in ’62, proved both Willie Nelson’s breakthrough single and a crossover hit, according to Countrypolitan.com. Still, on the Winterset stage, the biggest laughs came when Louise delivered some aside about how to handle men. “Sometimes,” she growled, “you got to talk to ’em that way.”

Louise gets vivacious treatment, all grits and gumption, from Deborah Kennedy. Patsy herself has less going on. Her troubled marriage gets barely a mention, and even the plane crash that took her at age 30 gets brushed aside for another round of tunes. Good tunes, no question, and Grandview undergraduate Katelyn Renze put them across with the necessary big voice and full-bodied swagger. (Louise calls her a “chunky lil’ country gal.”) Renze struggled early on with her lower register, but the more nagging problem was her “Bodacious Bobcats” band. The players looked good — all gussied up in black and red at the back of the stage — but they never jelled. The fiddle sounded out of tune throughout. The best moments involved Patsy’s beltings, which were enjoyed with a surge of electricity from her friend the live wire.

So there you have it, Mr. Byrne. That’s what community brings to the arts. CV                

John Domini is Cityview’s “Play Mate” theater critic who pens our weekly Center Stage column. He is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.

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