Capsule Stage Reviews: Always...Patsy Cline, Company, Electile Dysfunction, Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming

Always...Patsy Cline Stages Repertory Theatre's favorite cash cow is back and as much fun as ever. Created by Ted Swindley, the Stages founding artistic director, 20 years ago, Always...Patsy Cline is one of the theater's biggest crowd pleasers. With the current two-woman cast, which includes the hilarious Susan O. Koozin as Louise Seger, Patsy's biggest fan, it's easy to understand why the show sells out every time Stages brings it back. There's also all that terrific country music, sung with smooth Patsy style, by Melodie Smith, who plays the country-singing queen. The show, told from Louise's point of view, tells how she first fell in love with Patsy's music hearing it on TV one morning, and then one night, got to meet the star when she came to Houston to sing at a honky tonk. The two women kept up their friendship through letters and phone calls until Patsy died in a plane crash in 1963. As directed by Kenn McLaughlin, Koozin is big and brassy as the Texas fan. With a big wig and lots of swagger, Koozin creates a charmingly plain-talking Louise. Smith covers such fabulous tunes as "Back in Baby's Arms," "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy," to name just a few, with crooning style. All the great music, plus the fun performances, take the audience on a fun trip through bygone days when stars were just like regular folk and Texans sounded like...well...Texans. Through August 31. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123. — LW

Company Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Tony Award-winning mordant chamber work on marriage, commitment and New York City is the ultimate That '70s Show in theme, disco orchestration and spiky attitude. The musical, dry as a perfect martini, ushered in the '70s and ushered in Sondheim as possible king of Broadway. He had to wait, though, until the following year, when Follies finally bestowed the crown upon him. Company was so different, sophisticated and wicked that it took awhile until the work really sank in. Perpetual bachelor Bobby (Kevin Daugherty), best friend of five married couples, refuses to settle down. He's so close to his married friends he only sees the faults, not the pleasures. He makes lame excuses, he wants his wife to be an amalgam of his women friends, he sleeps around and can't remember his bedmates' names — he's probably gay, but the show's creators still adamantly deny that's the subtext. It's either/or for "Bobby baby, Bobby bubbi," but there's not much positive reinforcement from the couples; yet he has a "Being Alive" epiphany that's as much of a happy ending as anything else at the time. Imaginatively directed by Kim Mytelka on the tiniest of stages, east-end theatre company manages a truly rousing rendition that justifies Sondheim's brittle outlook. Space limits the accolades to Daugherty, Shelley Auer (the patter-song deluxe Amy), Robin Lusby Schaefer (deliciously drunk Joanne), Penny Rieger (naive April), musical director Carol Daubert and Tom Boone's minimal Mondrian set design. Through August 16. 2001 Postoffice St., Galveston. 409-762-3556. — DLG

Electile Dysfunction Radio Music Theatre has tackled the wild and wacky political season with this funny play, which is full of characters as kooky as the past few months have been. Writer/director Steve Farrell knows just how to put things into perspective. His silly show features the Jones family from Precious Trees, "the most planned planned community" in Houston. Mom, Dad and Junior all support different candidates. The Spy Eye News team finds out about the argument and decides to feature the family as a human interest story. The actors present the newscast complete with commercials; the funniest features a very familiar furniture salesman named Uncle Dan (played by a hysterical Farrell), who sells a "political leaning chair" that leans to the left or the right depending on your preference and a recliner that shoots bullets. Back on the show, Damn Mad (Rich Mills) rants about politics, and the biggest story of the week focuses on the pastor of the biggest church in Texas — it's so big it used to be a whole ranch. Nothing is actually settled during the show, but lots of fun is had as the politics of the hour get chewed over. Through November 15. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — LW

Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming If you like your gospel music tinged with Sunday school, this sequel to the successful Smoke on the Mountain and Sanders Family Christmas franchise will entertain, enlighten and set your boots a-tappin'. The singing Sanders Family — somewhat akin to the von Trapps, only without those annoying children — have scheduled a reunion at the North Carolina home base of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. One of their own is leaving to go to Texas with her preacher husband, and the family wants to sing together one last time. There's Mom and Dad, Vera and Burl (Karen Hodgin and Gerry Poland); the twins, Denise and Dennis (Abby Bergstrom and Jason Hatcher); and daughter June (Katharine Weatherly), who's married to Pastor Oglethorpe (Stephen Hurst). The black sheep of the family, Uncle Stanley (Craig Griffin), has suddenly arrived after being spotted at the Blue Nose Bar. Because he's the last one to "witness," you know he has a secret that's soon to be revealed. Everything works out swell at the end, because that's the type of musical this is — faith-based and good — which is a refreshing change of pace for sure. The harmonies the cast members spin are luscious, and they're all fine performers and musicians — they play mandolin, harmonica, bass fiddle, piano, ukulele, guitar, washboard, spoons, you name it — and June signs for the deaf, too. The knotty pine church interior is perfect, as are the '40s day dresses and seamed silk stockings. If you've recently been naughty, go get smacked upside the head with a Sanders rendition of "I'll Never Die" or "Children Talk to Angels"; it'll do you a world of good. Through August 31. A.D. Players, 2710 W. Alabama, 713-526-2721. — DLG

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover
Lee Williams