A smash hit at Chicago's Northlight Theatre, the biographical revue Always...Patsy Cline will get a new lead Patsy, June 28. "Cowboy jazz" contralto, Alice Kirwan, who co-founded the musical trio, The Pumps, will step into the boots boots currently worn by Hollis Resnick. The show continues its commercial open run at the Apollo Theatre.
Kirwan has also served as lead singer for Luke And The Cool Hands, a band formed by Luke Nelson -- musical director of Always...Patsy Cline.
The New York production, opening June 24 at the Variety Arts Theatre, stars Tori Lynn Palazolla as Patsy and Margo Martindale as Cline's friend, Louise.
Folksinger Megon McDonough was the first Illinois Cline (in the Evanston mounting), but had to tour with the folk quartet, "Four Bitchin' Babes," and couldn't be in the Apollo mounting, which is produced by Richard Friedman and Rob Kolson in association with the Randy Johnson Company. Instead, Chicago music-theatre veteran Resnick played the lead.
Appearing with Resnick, and now Kirwan, as friend and fan Louise is Sarah Underwood, who recently completed the national tour of Angels In America as Harper. Her Chicago credits include Northlight's Smoke On The Mountain, Steppenwolf's Evelyn And The Polka King, and the Goodman's Cry, The Beloved Country. With only these two characters, Always...Patsy Cline, Ted Swindley's play with music, covers the hard-livin' life of the country songstress, who died in a plane crash in 1963. She's considered the first woman to cross over from country to pop music. Songs performed in this fictionalized bio include, "I Fall To Pieces," "Walkin' After Midnight," "Blue Moon Over Kentucky" and "Sweet Dreams" (later taken as the title for Jessica Lange's film biography of Cline).
The popular musical has received successful productions at several musical theatres around the country, and is set to play at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Binghman Theatre, from July 8 - Aug. 24.
The show's 6-week run at Northwestern University in Evanston grossed a record $300,000-plus, making it an ideal candidate to help resuscitate the Apollo. To make the Northlight-to-Apollo transition even more special, designer Mary Griswold will transform the Apollo lobby to evoke a country/western saloon (complete with liquor license), while Todd Rosenthal's set will be enlarged for the Apollo's thrust stage and 430 seat theatre.
Directing this production of Always...Patsy Cline is Brian Russell, whose credits at Northlight include the world premiere of Mark Twain And The Laughing River, as well as A Perfect Ganesh and the Jeff-nominated All In The Timing.
Playwright J. Ted Swindley has directed and produced more than 200 shows in his 15-year career and has received the Los Angeles Dramalog Award for his work at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Costumes for Cline are by Nan Cibula-Jenkins, sound is by Bruce Holland, lighting by Emil Boulos. Luke Nelson leads the country `n' Western band accompanying Resnick's Cline on her hits.
For tickets ($22.50-$33.50) and information on Always...Patsy Cline, at the Apollo Theatre on North Lincoln Ave., (773) 935-6100.
-- By David Lefkowitz