When country powerhouse Patsy Cline took to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry or New York's Carnegie Hall in the early 60s, audiences were rightly enchanted. Her clear, powerful voice and interpretation of a song (Crazy, Sweet Dreams) were captivating--lucky for those who got the chance to experience her magic.
But hold on, because audiences of the newly re-opened Mayfield Dinner Theatre (quiet for almost a year due to pandemic restrictions) are likewise fortunate to get a feel for the weight and beauty of Cline's songs in the theatre's season opener 'A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline', and it's a beautiful tribute indeed.
As Cline, Sara-Jeanne Hosie returns to a familiar role (she's been Patsy a few times before), and this Canadian songstress is as good a fit for Cline's vocals as the cowboy boots and fringed outfits she changes up throughout the show. Hosie's voice is effortless and lovely--sassy and belty with plenty of twang, or in turn, delicate and filled with heartache as the song requires.
Though she shines especially brightly during the second act through emotional songs like Always, She's Got You and I Fall to Pieces, Hosie's a great vessel for all, including through many of the first act's uptempo numbers. With a slide in her voice and a bit of a yodel, Hosie and the Mayfield's dynamite five-piece band deliver on hits like Your Cheatin' Heart, Walkin' After Midnight and Love Sick Blues.
Mayfield artistic/musical director Van Wilmott has brought together a talented bunch to fill the stage. Highlighted by Harley Symington on guitar/vocals and Jeff Bradshaw on steel guitar, the entire ensemble is obviously having a great time, as seemingly thrilled to be back on stage doing live theatre again as the audience is to be back watching from their comfortable seats. Even if patrons are masked up during the performance, there's opportunity for hooting and clapping along, as the opening night crowd did with enthusiasm.
Weaving the thread that connects the songs, and performing comedy bits or retro commercials (mostly to give Hosie a break between songs), the DJ role of Little Big Man is played with gusto by Sheldon Bergstrom. This veteran Canadian stage actor offers up the old-timey guffaws and aw-shucks humour that many will enjoy. It can be tired shtick, but Bergstrom is earnest in bringing us the details of Cline's life.
Though show creator Dean Regan re-iterates much of what we already knew about Cline (born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1930s Virginia, coming back from marital abuse and a near life-ending car crash and finally, killed in a plane crash in 1963), this is primarily a stand-and-deliver musical review; a tried-and-true Mayfield pleaser focused on a music legend. For more along those lines, the theatre stages The Buddy Holly story next; another perennial favourite.
I'd be remiss not to mention the long-awaited return of the Mayfield buffet, a star in its own right and big draw for many a dinner theatre-goer. The prime rib au jus, and desserts like bread pudding, trifle and rice pudding are just like before: delicious and comforting. Enjoy a house-baked cookie and signature cocktail (I like the South of the Border--a blend of bitters, ginger beer and lime) right before showtime: the Mayfield is back!
All Restrictions Exemption Program protocols are in place, including checking vaccine status upon entry, mandatory masking in the theatre and washrooms, buffet area and at tables when not eating and drinking.
A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline runs until October 31. (Shows after Oct. 10 feature Alberta's Devra Straker as Cline). See mayfieldtheatre.ca for tickets.