Published on September 29th, 2016 | by The Local0
SEACT Presents: “Always…Patsy Cline”
Southeast Alabama Community Theatre (SEACT) is bringing the legendary Patsy Cline to the Cultural Arts Center Stage with an October 18-22 production of Always…Patsy Cline, brought to you by Extendicare Health and Rehabilitation Center. Author Ted Swindley’s story is drawn from the memories of Cline friend and fan Louise Seger. Far more than just a compilation of 27 of Cline’s greatest hits, it tells the sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, always engaging true story of how Cline was embraced by a fan and began a long-lasting friendship through the letters that they exchanged, which Cline signed “Love ALWAYS…Patsy Cline.”
Hailed as one of the most influential and acclaimed vocalists of the 20th Century, Patsy Cline helped pave the way for women in country music. Her distinctive contralto voice was a rarity in a genre that rarely celebrated women – and certainly not those with bold, expressive style – and it propelled her into the top of the charts with standout hits “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “Crazy,” among many others. Cline’s sound was distinctive; she had a rich tone, unusual phrasing and a hitch in her voice that is almost indescribable. She proved to be one of the few country stars of her day who could make the crossover to pop music.
Patsy Cline died in a plane crash at age 30. Ten years after her death, she became the first female solo artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her induction plaque read, “Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity.”
Always…Patsy Cline has enjoyed great success all over the United States, including a successful run off-Broadway. It has been one of the most produced musicals in America, according to American Theatre Magazine, and is as much about the friendship of two working women as it is the indelible voice of Cline.
That voice is embodied here in Jennifer Love Doherty, who is no stranger to SEACT audiences and appeared most recently as Fantine in 2015’s Les Miserables. Her goal as Cline is to transcend mere imitation of Cline’s style to help us believe that this is, indeed, how Patsy might have been, onstage and off.
Doherty says she was more than a little intimidated at the prospect of auditioning for the role, “Because, well…it’s Patsy Cline.” Her father-in-law, who is from Camden, Tennessee (where the fatal crash that killed Patsy occurred), talked about visiting the woods near the crash site the morning after and seeing clothes scattered in the crash hanging from the trees. Doherty has since visited the crash site herself more than once. She has grown to love Patsy’s music, but what interests her most about Always…Patsy Cline is the friendship between Patsy and Louise.
Divorced single-mom Louise is working as an electronics technician in 1961 Houston when she decides to take her boss and her boyfriend to a Cline concert. That concert and the evening that Patsy spent at Louise’s home afterward forms the centerpiece of the show. It was the only time Louise and Patsy were together, but what Swindley is capturing is an interlude that led to a pen-pal friendship cut short by Cline’s death two years later.
Louise, played by Lee Strickland, recounts first hearing Cline sing “Walkin’ After Midnight” on Arthur Godfrey’s show, and thinking “She sang like I would like to sin
g.” Cline may be warbling about the heartbreak of relationships with men, but she is singing for women who keep falling for the cheating louts anyway, and Louise is the emotional stand-in for everyone who ever loved Patsy.
That responsibility is one that weighs heavily for Strickland. She has played Louise in four productions in North Carolina before she moved home to the Wiregrass, and every time is different. “Every director brings a different vision to Swindley’s script and every Patsy brings her own style to the stage,” says Strickland. Key for her is remembering that every night is the first time for the audience. She wants them to understand Cline’s fascinating contradictions – Patsy was fierce and somehow painfully vulnerable; she was the girl next door, but also other-worldly – and she wants them to see Patsy through the eyes of her friend, Louise.
Doherty and Strickland are accompanied by the on-stage Bodacious Bobcats Band, led by musical director Dr. Bob Allen on piano, with drummer Joe Read, Marcus Hart on bass, Steve Kirkland on guitar and Travis Perry playing steel guitar and lead guitar. Dr. Bob is no stranger to the SEACT stage, having also been the musical director for SEACT’s highly successful 2009 production of another Ted Swindley title, Honky Tonk Angels.
Directed by veteran SEACT directors Eddie and Sam Farnham, Always…Patsy Cline focuses on a single night when two women became fast friends, and invites you to listen to a couple dozen songs on which Cline left her timeless mark. It’s the closest encounter you can have with Patsy Cline outside of your own sweet dreams.
WHAT? SEACT Presents Always…Patsy Cline
WHEN? October 18-22
WHERE? Cultural Arts Center, 909 South Saint Andrews, Dothan AL 36301
PURCHASE: Tickets available beginning October 3 at SEACT.com or at 334-794-0400