Studio 33 delivers memorable musical
Ashley Riley, an actress and singer from Nederland, returned home and founded a new theatre company, Studio 33. Now that their first production “Always... Patsy Cline” has concluded its run at the Port Arthur Little Theatre Playhouse, its time to consider the future of this fledgling troupe – and the news is good.
“Always…Patsy Cline” - a hit musical created by Ted Swindley in 1988 in Houston – was the perfect vehicle to showcase the talents of Riley, who has amassed a impressive string of credits over her still-young career.
The 27 songs in this musical posed a stern test that Riley passed with flying colors. Early in the show, she had to sing “I Fall to Pieces” and “Walking After Midnight” – two of Cline’s biggest hits. In this oft-produced show, it is imperative the actress playing Cline perform these two signature songs with skill while evoking Cline at her most memorable. Simply put, Riley knocked those songs out of the ballpark, securing the devotion of a rapt audience for the rest of the show.
In front of a simple set of four barn-door panels to evoke the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville – home of the Grand Ole Opry – Riley made beautiful music with the eight-piece band who could go on the road today with this show to honky-tonks and fancy theatres alike.
Equally impressive was Kathryn Griffith as Louise Seger, Cline’s fan-turned-friend who serves as the audience surrogate – a divorced, 1961 Texas housewife in gold spandex pants with a snappy patter and irrepressible spirit. Griffith would have walked away with the show if Riley’s vocal tour-de-force had not been so strong.
As it was, these two dynamic women kept the crowd enthralled from beginning to end for as enjoyable an evening at the theater as I have experienced in years.
Where Studio 33 goes from here has not been announced. Riley is four months pregnant, which would surprise anybody who witnessed her star turn as Patsy Cline. But this is a performer – and theatre group – that merits your attention.
- James Shannon