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. Producer Albert Poland told Playbil On-Line (Oct. 29) tickets are now on sale for Always...Patsy Cline through March 1998.
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. 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).
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