You'll Fall to Pieces

Patsy Cline remains a top-selling artist more than 30 years after her death. The 1985 biographical movie Sweet Dreams (starring Jessica Lange), recent videos about her life and music, and the release of a greatest-hits album in 1992 (it sold more than four million copies) have kept Cline a prominent force in country music.

Phoenix Theatre is currently providing the opportunity to relive her era with A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline by Dean Regan.

Staged as a tribute by radio station WKLM in Winchester, Virginia (near Cline's hometown of Gore), A Closer Walk is more concert than musical. Little Big Man, WKLM's deejay, narrates Cline's life story, tying together the show's 20 songs. The concert setting changes from radio station to recording studios, concert halls, a Las Vegas showroom, Carnegie Hall and, of course, the Grand Ole Opry.

Songs are interspersed with radio ads and joke-wielding emcees, providing an entertaining evening for hard-core Cline fans and the uninitiated alike.

Cline began dancing and singing at an early age. But her father walked out on the family, forcing Cline to quit school and go to work. Her mother, always supportive, took her to Nashville to audition for the Grand Ole Opry. This event launched a nine-year struggle to hit the big time, which came when Cline won the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts competition in 1957 with the song "Walkin' After Midnight."

Along the way, Cline's first marriage broke up, a second marriage produced a son and a daughter, and she became a regular at the Grand Ole Opry.

Cline's library of hitsincludes "Faded Love," "Leavin' on Your Mind," "Blue Moon ofKentucky," "Sweet Dreams," "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy." As fate would have it, on March 5, 1963, at the height of her career, Cline was killed in a plane crash on her way home from a benefit concert.

This ultimately tragic tale is essentially about striving for your dreams and putting your best foot forward. Phoenix Theatre does just that by presenting Robyn Ferracane as Patsy Cline. Ferracane possesses vocal chords of steel, and is in her element as she flows from song to song. This is her best performance since her portrayal of Ruth in Davis Productions' The Pirates of Penzance. Ferracane plays the audience like the pro she is, commanding attention at all times. Her vocal twang and country shuffle are as cute as her 1960s-vintage wigs are embarrassing reminders of thankfully bygone fashions.

Bruce Miles superbly plays the deejay, Little Big Man, as well as three different opening-act comedians. His storytelling is as smooth as molasses and his comedic approach to some lessthan-stellar routines saves the so-so writing.

Cline's back-up band, led by musical directorDaniel A. Kurek, is a powerful country quartetthat plows effortlessly through these classics.Guitarist Bill Bellamak shines with hisexquisite country picking.

Director Terrance McKerrs, who so deftly directed and choreographed The Taffetas and Forever Plaid during the past two PT seasons, has trouble keeping Cline's back-up singers focused. Their vocal blend is luscious, but their movements are out of synch, making them look uncomfortable. However, McKerrs' decision to give Ferracane and Miles the freedom to do what they do best gives the evening the quality PT is known for.

This type of concert musical won't please everybody, but if you're a Patsy Cline fan or a fan of Ferracane's voice, don't miss this chance to see a great performer performing great music.

A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline continues through Sunday, February 4, at Phoenix Theatre, Central and McDowell.