Three months after ending its moderately successful New York run, Always...Patsy Cline will close its hit Chicago engagement as well. Northlight Theatre's mounting in Chicago will end March 1, after more than a year of performances at Northlight, the Apollo and, currently, Victory Gardens. The Off-Broadway production closed the corral Dec. 7, 1997 after 192 performances.
Folksinger Megon McDonough appeared as Cline in the original Chicago mounting, but went on tour with the folk quartet, "Four Bitchin' Babes," and couldn't be in the Apollo gig, which is produced by Richard Friedman and Rob Kolson in association with the Randy Johnson Company. Instead, Chicago music theatre veteran Hollis Resnick played the lead, recently taken over by Alice Kirwan. Dawn Hopper has been playing Patsy's number one fan, Louise.
The piece uses only two characters -- Cline and fan Louise -- plus an onstage band (the Bodacious Bob Cats), led by Kingsley Day.
Patsy Cline is 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).
Produced by Opryland Theatricals in association with The Randy Johnson Company, Always...Patsy Cline will have played more than 400 performances in Chicago by its March 1 close. Based on Ellis Nassour's biography of Cline, Ted Swindley's play with music covers the hard-living life of the country songstress, who died in a plane crash in 1963. Nassour recently settled a long-standing lawsuit against Swindley and producer Randy Johnson over credit for his part in shaping the show. Nassour had met Louise Seger in 1980 while doing research for his book, Patsy Cline: An Intimate Biography. In 1988, a portion of that interview was adapted by Swindley for the revue, Always...Patsy Cline at Stages Repertory Company in Houston, where Swindley served as artistic director. Swindley has directed and produced more than 200 shows in his 15-year career and has received the Los Angeles Dramalogue Award for his work at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Always...Patsy Cline has also found a long-term home at Colorado's Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where the musical bio reached its second anniversary Aug. 6.
A cast recording of the original staging is available on MCA CD's and cassettes. That production ran for nearly two years at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium -- home of the Grand Ol' Opry before the theatre was rebuilt. Always...Patsy Cline was the theatre's first tenant after its renovation.
For information on Always...Patsy Cline at the Victory Gardens space, 2257 North Lincoln Ave., call (773) 871-3000.
-- By David Lefkowitz