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 “We were eager to see how the understudy for King would perform, and she did not disappoint. Through an honest portrayal of a figure she has obviously studied, Gardenhire brings integrity, sincerity, and vocal prowess to the role of Carole King, honoring the woman who sourced the material in a way that would make her proud. Gardenhire demonstrates an understanding of genuine comedy, delivering the funny lines in creative ways that never feel slapstick, while also telling a true story of a seemingly normal woman who experiences real joy and real pain while creating some of the most famous and recognizable music in American history. Tears glisten in her eyes during the most powerful scenes, while radiance emanates from her smile during her triumphs. Gardenhire is not portraying a character: she is channeling a life.”

            - Front Row Reviewers, Tanner Tate (Carole in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical)




"Emily Gardenhire stole the limelight as the vocally versatile Lady of the Lake. As the only major female character in the show, there was added pressure not to get lost in a “lake of testosterone.” However, Gardenhire outshone everyone with her sassy commanding presence."


          -- Brandon C. Jones, CVNC - An Online Arts Journal in North Carolina




"To talk about this show and its performances without talking about the singing is impossible. The tunes assigned to Raleigh native Emily Gardenhire as Cline range from up-tempo pop novelties ("Stupid Cupid," originally a hit for Connie Francis) and country standards (Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart") to the songs that became synonymous with Cline, including "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy."

Gardenhire's voice is an instrument more than up to the challenge of these songs and displays a flexibility that makes her adaptation of Cline's vocal quirks sound almost second-nature. That characteristic "tear drop" tone in the ballads is nowhere more beautifully captured than in Gardenhire's performance of the "Sweet Dreams/She's Got You" medley, a moment at the start of Act Two that produces goose bumps.

A different kind of vocal excitement is on display in "San Antonio Rose" and "Love-Sick Blues." Gardenhire delivers these with humor and spunk, easily powering through them without belting. That's really the essence of Gardenhire's performance: She makes it look and sound as easy as if Cline were standing right in front you.

Easy, too, is the down-home grace with which she brings Cline, the person, to life in her brief encounter with Seger around the latter's kitchen table. When she's not singing, Gardenhire's Patsy is as sweet-spirited and slightly detached as Weetman's Louise is wide-open and warm-hearted.

Ultimately, what Gardenhire manages to bring to her character is something of what makes Cline so admired even now: a joy in singing that transcends almost any lyric and makes the best of the songs associated with her essays in emotional truth."


          -- Bob Workmon, StarNews




"Broadway’s Todd Michel Smith (in slickly understated performance, a la Gene Kelly) and Raleigh’s Emily Gardenhire are the dynamic duo at the heart of this rousing rendition of Dames at Sea. They demonstrate great chemistry, strong singing voices, light feet, and a fine flair for comedy as they portray Dick the sailor-songwriter and Ruby the bubbly newcomer to the chorus who quickly becomes the apple of his eye."


          -- Robert McDowell, Triangle Arts and Entertainment




"Once Emily Gardenhire begins her monologue as Reagan, a teen navigating choices about her future, we are drawn into her struggle. From the window of her apartment, she speaks to a bird, which she has named Preston, about her fears in growing up.

But it feels much more like she speaks to each person silently watching than to her feathered friend. Gardenhire's portrayal is earnest and so, too, is the audience's empathy for her."


          -- Phillip Crook, The News and Observer

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