MORRISBURG – “If you want to be a country singer, you’ve got to get out there and live it.”
Her life, tragically, was cut short in 1963, but Patsy Cline did live every minute of it to the fullest.
In noted singer/composer Leisa Way’s newly revamped production of her original 2009 hit, Sweet Dreams – the Patsy Cline Story, now on stage at Upper Canada Playhouse, the audience is taken on an exciting and often emotional journey through the life of one of the music world’s most iconic performers. In her own way, Patsy Cline revolutionized the music industry. Her “hillbilly” music crossed over into classic country and eventually on to pop charts across the nation. “There He Goes.” “Walking After Midnight”. “Crazy.” “Faded Love.” All standards. All given that incredible Patsy Cline flair.
And, in this musical production at the Playhouse, also given the incredible Leisa Way flair.
In the show, Way was backed by the outstanding members of the Wayward Wind Band, Fred Smith, Doug Balfour, Don Reid and Bob Hewus. These musicians were each spotlighted in a variety of numbers throughout the evening. Fred Smith, taking on the roles of men from Patsy Cline’s life, wowed the crowd with the poignant “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and his cheeky version of the Beverly Hillbillies Theme.
However, Leisa Way, her love for both Patsy and her music expressed in every song, makes this concert a thoroughly wonderful experience for the audience. It’s really too bad Way and her band couldn’t see the smiles on audience faces behind the masks, but the applause, and the ovations, told the story.
In the course of Sweet Dreams, Way shared anecdotes from Patsy Cline’s life (“If love is blind, then marriage is a real eye-opener!” “No Dough, No Show Cline”). Patsy fought her way out of poverty to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, on to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and eventually on to the hallowed boards of Carnegie Hall. Her marriages weren’t easy. She was betrayed by record companies. But as Patsy herself put it, “I don’t want to get rich in life. I just want to live good.”
The diminutive Way (wearing some spectacular “red” costumes) breathed passion into that great Patsy Cline music. Only rarely off the stage, she used her voice as a rich instrument: her vocal range really is extraordinary. She is energized on the stage. Whether she was singing “Always” or the rueful “I’ve Got Your Picture,” she really seemed to capture the unique soul of Patsy Cline. Throughout the evening, Leisa charmed the audience often encouraging people to sing and clap along in beloved numbers.
Leisa Way, and the Wayward Wind Band, now on stage at Upper Canada Playhouse in Sweet Dreams, are keeping memories of Patsy Cline, and her wonderful, exuberant music, alive for us all.