A CLOSER WALK WITH PATSY CLINE

by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Jacksonville is CRAZY about Patsy Cline despite the fact that she died in a plane crash in 1963. Her music lives on and captivates new fans every year. One of the most popular shows in the Alhambra’s history has returned once again and once again the incomparable Gail Bliss brings Cline’s brilliance, determination, and talent to life for all ages to enjoy. About a third of the audience members at the show we saw on January 2 were repeat offenders, an endearing term Ms. Bliss bestows on her fans who come back for more and more and more. She also has a special Offenders Button available for them.
The story is structured around a tribute produced by the radio station in her home town of Winchester Virginia, where she got her start. Five musicians are on stage, while Little Big Man, the announcer / disc jockey sits in a booth at stage right. Patsy – age 14 – enters, and reprises her first songs on the air, which included a stirring “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”
As the show progresses through her life story, the set changes to mirror the ascent of her career, from an unknown Honky-Tonk singer, to a featured performer at the Grand Ole Opry and Las Vegas casinos, and to her final triumph, Carnegie Hall. The songs are interspersed to make this a fast-paced show. Ms. Bliss changes into a new costume for almost every scene, ranging from simple black Capri pants to elaborate fringed and sequined gowns, along with new hairstyles to fit the occasion.
Gail Bliss is a passionate performer, and despite having performed this show for the past fifteen years, each performance is fresh and bright due to her incredible voice, energy, and stamina. You feel as if Patsy herself were on stage as Ms. Bliss sings her favorites, including “Sweet Dreams,”“Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” and “Faded Love.” Patsy’s hit parade songs “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “Walkin’ After Midnight” found the audience singing along. My personal favorite was the wonderful rendition of “Bill Bailey”, and apparently the audience felt as I did, rewarding it with loud and long applause.
Gail Bliss has a terrific supporting cast. Little Big Man (Dan Embree) is the radio announcer, and also did three very funny stand-up comedy routines that, along with his rustic costume, had the audience in stitches. The talented and experienced band includes Rory Hoffman (Keyboard), Paul Kramer (Fiddle, Tic-Tac Bass), Eric Lewis (Guitar), Tony Mac (Drums) and Dave Martin (Bass).
The very attractive Ms. Bliss is a very up-close and personal performer and meets and greets and signs autographs after every show in the front lobby. Whether you are a country music fan or not, this super entertainer’s awesome talent, acting and singing will win your heart. It is not only a show not to be missed but one to be enjoyed again and again, it is that good.
A Closer Walk will run through Valentine’s Day, and you better make your reservations really early for that day!! All performances are at the Alhambra, 12000 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville. Call 641-1212 or visit www.alhambrajax.com for information and reservations.

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