When I sat down in the Media Theatre Thursday night, I expected to enjoy “Always, Patsy Cline” because I’m a longtime Patsy fan. However, I didn’t expect to be wowed by it!
Broadway’s Jenny Lee Stern is so awesome in her role as Patsy Cline that if you close your eyes and sit back and listen, you’d swear it was the legendary country singer reincarnated on the Media Theatre stage. Stern’s voice was magnificent. She even included Cline’s signature twang. I sang the songs in my head — and sometimes aloud because I couldn’t help myself — for the next two days.
I never saw the show “Always, Patsy Cline” until last week, so I didn’t have any idea how it would unfold. Sometimes, it’s our frame of mind or our own personal lives that influence how much we do or don’t like a show. However, I think this production would even appeal to those who never before heard a Patsy Cline tune. The show had an excellent band and only two characters, Stern as Patsy and Deborah Lynn Meier in the role of Louise Seger, a fan in Houston, who befriended the country star in a Texas honky-tonk in 1961 and continued a unique, friendly correspondence with Cline until her death. Cline died tragically at age 30 in a plane crash in 1963.
The musical play, based on a true story, is complete with down home country humor, true emotion and some audience participation. The best part — at least to me — is that the show includes many of Patsy’s unforgettable hits such as “Crazy,” “Honky Tonk Angels,” “Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Walking After Midnight” — 27 songs in all. The show’s title was inspired by Cline’s letters to Seger, which were consistently signed “Love Always, Patsy Cline.”
Both Meier and Stern — and the band — were superior in their roles. The talented actresses’ resumes were very impressive, so it’s no wonder that they grabbed a hold of this show and easily made it their own with an outstanding interpretation.
Overcome with emotion, I even felt some tears welling up a few times as I watched. My husband always strummed Patsy Cline songs on his guitar. My mother-in-law could belt out “Honky Tonk Angels” like a professional. The show brought vivid, sentimental and fond memories of them both performing Cline songs, and that was an added reason that I was so taken by the show.
If you get a chance to go see it, you’ll be in for a real treat. There’s nothing complicated to “get” or hard to understand about the show — it’s purely simple, good old-fashioned entertainment. The show runs through April 1 and has performances on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. For more information on the current “Always, Patsy Cline” production or tickets, call the Media Theatre at 610-891-0100 or visit mediatheatre.org.
Media Theatre’s next show, running April 18 through June 10, is “Disney’s Newsies,” and you can only imagine, as a newspaper person, how excited I am about this upcoming show!
Seeing how wonderful “Always, Patsy Cline” was got me thinking how I have to start hitting the local theater circuit more often because Delaware County’s theaters offer high-quality, first-rate productions at a fraction of the prices in the city, plus most have a free parking lot and an easy 10- to 15-minute commute to and from the theater.
Luckily, I do get into Center City to see many shows, but I have to say, in the past, I have also seen some unbelievably professional and moving shows in Delaware County theaters. This past fall, I saw “Chicago” at the Players Club Theatre in Swarthmore, and it was every bit as good as anything you’d see at the major theaters downtown — and that is only one of many local productions over the last several years that blew me away in how good they were.
The Players Club of Swarthmore (PCS) is now presenting the American classic, “The Member of the Wedding,” until March 31 on the PCS Main Stage, 614 Fairview Ave., Swarthmore. It’s getting excellent reviews. For tickets or more info on “The Member of the Wedding” or other upcoming shows , visit pcstheater.org.
Another little hidden gem is the Colonial Playhouse in Aldan, which is presenting “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” until March 25. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Colonial is an intimate theater because of its size. No matter where you sit, you have a closeup seat to the stage action, which always makes the shows extra enjoyable. For tickets or to view other upcoming shows, visit colonialplayhouse.net/the-adventures-of-tom-sawyer.
The Barnstormers Theater in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania’s oldest and the nation’s third oldest continuously operating community theater, is a cool rustic place to see a show, too. Many times, they turn it into a cabaret dinner theater for shows. Upcoming productions include “Forever Plaid” in April and “Monty Python’s Spamalot” in June. For more information and tickets, visit barnstormerstheater.com.
Delaware County has many other theater gems, including Spotlight Theater in Swarthmore, housed in the Swarthmore United Methodist Church, 129 Park Ave., which is now featuring “Medea” through March 31, and The Rose Valley Chorus & Orchestra (RVCO), which is currently into its 111th season. RVCO will present one of Broadway’s favorites, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” April 12, 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. and April 14 and 15 at 2 p.m., performed on the stage at Strath Haven Middle School, 200 S. Providence Road, Wallingford. For more information, visit rvco.org.
Add to this lineup the Saint Francis Players, who will stage “Annie” as their annual production in Leonard Hall of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Springfield, April 20 to 29. For tickets to the show and for dinner/show, call 610-544-6995.
Another theater, Viviana Theatre, will also stage “Annie” in June at the Folcroft Fire Company (vivtix.com).
The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, Lansdowne Avenue, is a hub of theater excellence, with its Summer Stage productions, its Main Stage productions and its evolving visiting shows. Honestly, I joined as a member to save even more on tickets because they have so many excellent performances throughout the year. Every seat in the house is a good one. Visit udpac.org to become a member and see some of their upcoming lineup that includes “Artrageous” on March 22, “Golden Dragon Acrobats” on April 7, “Junie B. Jones” on April 20 and “Prince Charming: A Cinderella Story” on April 28.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing of all Delco theaters is Hedgerow Theatre Company in Rose Valley. America’s oldest professional resident theater company is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year. Hedgerow Theatre Company is America’s longest-serving professional resident theater founded in 1923 by Jasper Deeter as a haven for cutting-edge artists of the early 20th century. Hedgerow quickly gained a national and international reputation as a proving ground for era-defining artists such as Susan Glaspell, Eugene O’Neill, Countee Cullen, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Theodore Dreiser and Wharton Esherick. Today, the company consists of seven resident actors and an extended company of 10.
The theater will honor Penelope Reed for her lifetime of work at the theater’s annual Belle of the Ball benefit 6:30 to 10 p.m. this Friday, March 23, at the Old Mill, 9 Old Mill Lane, Rose Valley. Reed is not only the 2017 Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, but she is also the heart and soul of Hedgerow and its director emeritus. All monies raised at the event will be dedicated to The Penelope Reed Education Fund to preserve the theater’s educational programming for underserved youth and The Jewel Box Theatre Campaign dedicated to the refurbishing and preservation of Hegerow’s theater dating from 1840.
For more information about Hedgerow, the Belle of the Ball event or upcoming productions, which include Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” in May and “His Girl Friday” in June and July, visit hedgerowtheatre.org.
For children, theater abounds in this area, from the aforementioned award-winning Upper Darby Summer Stage to the Catholic Community Choir, which is presenting “Mary Poppins Jr.” this Thursday through Sunday at Cardinal O’Hara High School. Players Club, Hedgerow, Barnstormers, Viviana and Media Theatres also put on children’s productions.
To add to all the theater available in Delco, all of the local high schools and colleges stage fall and spring shows. I haven’t been to one yet that wasn’t utterly enjoyable and worthwhile to attend. To add even more to our theater culture pot, we are surrounded by excellent theaters right over every county border — Philadelphia’s extensive theater offerings, the Grand Opera House and Candlelight Dinner Theatre to our south, People’s Light Theatre, Narberth Community Theatre and a host of others, way too numerous to list.
I know someone who moved to the Midwest and, after a few years, she moved back to Delaware County. “What made you come back?” I asked her upon her return. “I missed the culture here,” she confided. “I’m just really used to having a load of cultural opportunities right at my fingertips. Without it, my life seemed so boring and commonplace — drab.”
This was a classic case of you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
She explained how loaded we are with culture and opportunities for live music, all kinds of art and theater galore, with a multitude of choices for every day of the week. I often think about her statement. Living here, we often take the fact that we have multiple theaters in a 10-minute radius of our homes for granted. Sometimes it’s refreshing to put down the remote, turn off our laptops and tablets and head out to a local theater for life entertainment, instead of being content with entertainment on a screen. The cast and crew of every show works incredibly hard to shine, once they hit the stage, and it’s a shame not to let them shine for you. A ticket to some shows doesn’t cost much more than a movie ticket.
Spring is in the air, and we’re all itching to get out and shake off cabin fever with a little fun. Going up to Broadway and into the major theaters in Philly are both excellent options, no doubt about it. But don’t overlook checking out your local theatet listings. There’s quite a lineup coming this spring, and I highly doubt that you’ll be disappointed! As a matter of fact, if you got a little removed from the local theater scene, I guarantee that after just one show, you will be put right back on the hook. Like me, you’re liable to laugh, cry, tap your feet and maybe sing the songs for days afterward. Hopefully you’ll remember how lucky you are to live in the midst of all of this outstanding talent and quality live entertainment and start to take advantage of it!