Flipside: The Patti Page Story

nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
December 20, 2012

In the early 1950s, a charming young singer from Tulsa, Clara Ann Fowler, lands a job at radio station KTUL.  She quickly creates her own style, takes the name Patti Page, hits the road with bandleader Jack Rael, and becomes famous for her recordings of "The Tennessee Waltz", "(How Much Is That) Doggie In The Window", "All My Love" and many, many more.

Writer/Director Greg White has worked with many Oklahomans, including Patti Page herself, to create a very lively show.   The story touches on the repressive side of being a celebrity, and on the lyric "Now I know just how much I had lost" several times before finishing with happy renditions of "The Tennessee Waltz" and "This Is My Song".  Along the way, the real Clara Ann looks back on her time spent as Patti in an entertaining and theatrical manner.  As legend has it, one night Patti Page could not find anyone to sing backup vocals and so pioneered the technique of recording and mixing several vocal parts.  For this production, four voices contribute to the action: there is Haley Jane Pierce as Clara Ann circa 1965, Lindsie Vanwinkle as Patti circa 1950, and Jenny Rottmayer and Kassie Carroll as even more voices of Patti.  Together, backed by Dr. Sandra Thompson's band, they perform richly layered numbers such as "Mockin' Bird Hill", "To Each His Own", "Once In a While", "Detour", etc.  The experience of watching Patti's career unfold succeeds because of the dozens of beautiful costumes created by Corey Martin; Melissa Griffith's vocal arrangements and Shannon Hurleigh's choreography make it quite a party.

It is exciting to see a small-town girl achieve national success, including a network TV show where all the luminaries of 1950s pop and rock performed, then gently maneuver her manager (Justin Larman) into recording the simple, direct music she always wanted.  "The Tennessee Waltz", only the B-side of a record and not intended to be a hit, sold millions of copies.  The patience and dignity of Clara Ann's character are easy to relate to, and I can see why Oklahoma is still proud of their All-American "Singin' Rage".

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