REVIEW: Meadow Brook Theatre’s ‘A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline’ is an Emotional, Must-See Experience

Patsy Cline’s professional musical career lasted 15 years before tragedy struck, but the legacy she left behind is still impacting artists and fans to this day.

Cline wasn’t just a singer, but also a gifted storyteller and fierce advocate for others, which is evident in A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, by Dean Regan, running at Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, MI from now until June 19, 2022.

This show is more of a concert experience than a traditional musical, which is why I and the enthusiastic opening night audience found it so engaging.

Chip DuFord as Little Big Man in ‘A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline’ at MBT.
Photo courtesy of Meadow Brook Theatre’s Facebook page.

Set in the WINC radio studio in Winchester, Virginia in 1963, the always entertaining Chip DuFord plays Little Big Man, a disc jockey who takes the audience on a musical journey of Patsy Cline’s career. From the Lone Star Saloon to the Grand Ole Opry, Carnegie Hall in New York City, and more, we were treated to new insight and appreciation for an artist who is considered one of the greatest country and pop music vocalists of all time. Now, none of this would be believable without a gifted actress in the role.

Felicia Finley makes her MBT debut as the magnificent Patsy Cline and from her first note (“Come on In”) makes you believe she’s the real deal. Because it’s one thing to simply sing someone else’s songs, but quite another to truly become the person to the point the actress playing her disappears. And after a few songs, all I saw on stage was Patsy. Throughout the show, Finley’s vocal range and ability to interpret Cline’s style created many divine moments that felt sacred. Nowhere was that more evident than when she hit her lower register on songs like, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “Crazy.” Perhaps the most emotional moment of the evening came at the very end.

L-R: Mikey Vultaggio, Geoffrey Besser, Felicia Finley, Chip DuFord, Sam VanKampen, and Tyler Bolda entertain the audience during a performance of ‘A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline’ at Meadow Brook Theatre.
Photo courtesy of Meadow Brook Theatre’s Facebook page.

Everyone was so caught up enjoying the joyous jamboree on stage, that I think we forgot Cline’s story doesn’t come with a happy ending. When Little Big Man read the newswire announcing Patsy’s death, I had chills. You could feel the theatre still as if we were all holding our breath. Then, Finley appears to sing a reprise of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” I swear each note hung in the air – as if suspended by an invisible barrier, before falling to wash over the audience in a moment of reverence.

Sharing the stage with Finley were Geoffrey Besser, Tyler Bolda, Sam VanKampen, and Mikey Vultaggio as the Jordanaires. In addition to their comedic moments as AJAX pitchmen, their four-part harmony sound was a musical treat for the ears – especially on the hymns “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

The whole evening was interactive and immersive. The audience gleefully clapped, stomped, ‘yee-hawed,’ and gave the cast and musicians a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.

Since most of us never had the privilege of seeing Cline perform live, A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline is the next best thing. So, as the saying goes, ‘run, don’t walk’ to see a show that is rich with artistry and entertainment.

This show runs approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline is directed by Travis W. Walter, with musical direction by Zachary Ryan. Brittanie Nichole Sicker is the stage manager, assisted by Stacy White, with scenic design by Christa Tausney, costume design by Liz Goodall, lighting design by Neil Koivu, and sound design by Mike Duncan.

Zachary Ryan also conducts the band and plays the keyboard. The rest of the band is comprised of Brian Buckmaster (drums), Sig Hepler (guitar), Jackson Stone (bass), Lorrie Gunn (fiddle), and Andrew Toering (pedal steel guitar).

Tickets range from $36 to $46 and are available by calling the Meadow Brook Theatre box office at 248-377-3300 or going online at www.Ticketmaster.com. Student discounts are available at the box office. Groups of eight or more should call 248-370-3316 for group pricing.

A special note: As Covid-19 is a constantly changing situation, check the Meadow Brook Theatre website at www.MBTheatre.com for the latest information.

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at [email protected].

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