A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline is more a concert than a piece of theater. Its nearly two-hour run time (intermission included) consists almost entirely of songs by the titular singer, performed by Laurie Finnegan. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s very good. A Closer Walk is a well-polished piece suited for a city larger than ours; it will blow the dust off your sense of nostalgia and leave you with a bittersweet glow.
A janitor-themed barbershop quartet is formed from Ron Bronitsky, Michael Finnegan (he’s married to Laurie Finnegan), Tim MacAlpine and Patrick Alan Robinson. The four harmoniously bust out radio commercials for such products as Mr. Clean and Ajax. They also serve as Laurie Finnegan’s backup, trading in their gray jumpsuits for bolo ties.
The audience was made up of people who not only love Patsy Cline’s music but well recall the days she was climbing the charts and performing at Carnegie Hall.
No one in the cast is new to theater, and it shows. Finnegan’s trained voice digs into the soul of Cline’s hits with grace; at moments it’s easy to forget you aren’t watching the original songstress herself. Her backup singers do a lovely job as well, imbuing the show with old-timey flair. And Lang, who also makes the sporadic appearance as a standup act opening for some of Cline’s shows, nails his lines effortlessly and with considerable comic timing. He’s a joy to watch.
The audience was made up of people who not only love Patsy Cline’s music but well recall the days she was climbing the charts and performing at Carnegie Hall. They came to remember. And boy, did they relish in the memory. Heads bobbed in time to the music, people were inspired to clap along to some tunes and there were even a couple mid-song standing ovations (by single audience members, mind you). A man sitting a few rows in front of us would raise his right hand and gently wave it back and forth to his favorite songs—I kept expecting him to spark a lighter. The memories and plucked heartstrings were palpable.
If you love Patsy Cline, go see this show. If you know people who love her, you owe it to them to take them. This isn’t a play, and it’s really not even a musical, but it is a lovingly crafted and beautifully executed homage to a country icon. Take a family member and settle into your seat. You might even be moved to wave your hand in the air.