After 16 previews and 192 performances, the country-western show, Always...Patsy Cline will close the corral Dec. 7, after the Sunday evening performance. Reached last week by Playbill On Line, producer Albert Poland strongly denied rumors that the show would close in January, saying that tickets were onsale for the show through March 1998.
Since June, New Yorkers hankerin' for a li'l taste o' Branson, MO and the Grand Ole Opry have been moseyin' on over to the Variety Arts Theatre for Always...Patsy Cline, a musical covering the late, great singer's life -- as seen through the eyes of her biggest fan.
Previews started June 9 for the show, which stars Tori Lynn Palazolla as Patsy and Margo Martindale as Louise. Martindale starred in 1995's The Sugar Bean Sisters at Off-Broadway's WPA Theatre.
The piece uses only two characters -- Cline and fan Louise -- plus an onstage band. 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. As reported in the New York Post, Nassour has just settled his 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. By 1989, Nassour and Swindley had reached an agreement regarding the former's contribution to the work.
However, in 1992, Always... began playing engagements throughout the U.S. without giving credit to Nassour. Nassour sued, May 1997, in New York district court, where Judge Shira A. Scheindlin recently proposed an out-of-court settlement. The agreement acknowledges Nassour's source material, pays him a fee for past royalties, and gives him participation with the creative team in ongoing royaltyies of all productions of Always, Patsy Cline. A freelance contributor to Playbill, Nassour told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 20) he was "delighted by the outcome" and credited Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts for giving him the wherewithal to take legal action.
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 has sets by Christopher Pickart, lighting by Stephen Quandt, costumes by Thom Heyer and sound by Peter Fitzgerald. Vicki Masters is the music director.
Author Swindley directs the show, which has had many other productions nationwide. A smash hit at Chicago's Northlight Theatre, Cline extended its run to the end of the year at the Apollo Theatre. Folksinger Megon McDonough appeared as Cline in the original 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.
The show was also a big hit at Virginia Stage Company, with Jessica Welch played Patsy, joined by Joy Hawkins as Louise.
Playwright J. Ted 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 Variety Arts Theatre on Third Ave., call (212) 239 6200. For more information on the show, check their website at http://www.alwayspatsycline.com.
-- By David Lefkowitz