By Jordan Zeitler
In “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline,” Julie Johnson vividly brings the country music sweetheart to life.
The musical tribute about the superstar is from the point of view of a radio DJ (Steve Marcus). As he tells Patsy’s story, Johnson relives some of the most memorable moments in Patsy’s life, leading up to the singer’s tragic death in a plane crash in 1963. She was only 30 years old.
Johnson wowed the crowd with big-voiced renditions of such classic hits as “A Closer Walk with Thee,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Sweet Dreams.” She demonstrated how Cline crossed over to blues, gospel and pop, too.
The crowd’s favorite was “Crazy,” Cline’s biggest hit and ironically, her least personal favorite. (And written by Willie Nelson.)
Johnson also captured the singer’s big personality, which also got her noticed, enough to get a foot in the music industry.
Johnson, a stage and screen veteran best known for spending 20 years voicing the “Barney and Friends” character Baby Bop, is sanctioned by the Patsy Cline Estate to play the legend.
The script touches on Patsy’s beginnings in Winchester, Va., a car accident that left her badly injured, her rise to become a Grand Ole Opry sensation, and her troubled romantic life.
She married Charlie Dick, love of her life, in September 1957, two months after divorcing her first husband, Gerald Cline.
In addition to playing the radio DJ, Marcus took on five minor roles and served as music director, leading the band on piano. He was heart-wrenching in announcing her death.
The talented five-piece band included Jerry Matheny on electric guitar, Rocky Gribble on acoustic guitar and banjo, John Kerry Huckaba on bass guitar and D. Garrett Roper on drums.
While the show was well-staged and entertaining, it did not provide a very in-depth look into Cline’s personal life. It highlighted her career and accolades, and only touched briefly on some trouble in her marriages. The story could have included much more.
However, hearing Cline’s work beautifully presented was satisfying enough.
“A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline” plays at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza April 17 — May 6. Performances are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with 2 p.m. matinees on Wednesday and Sunday, and a 4 p.m. show Saturday. Tickets can be purchased at the box office one-hour prior to showtime, or by calling MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or going to www.metrotix.com. For more information, visit www.playhouseatwestport.com