Cats on Broadway may be now and forever, and The Fantasticks remains a decades-old phenom, but one regional long runner is calling it quits: Always...Patsy Cline, a staple at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts since Aug. 5, 1995, will end its run Mar. 28, after entertaining more than a quarter-million patrons. The theatre will then close until mid-fall for renovations.
For three-and-a-half years, Melissa Swift-Sawyer has been playing country music legend Patsy Cline. Robin Thompson plays the adoring fan who crosses paths with Patsy for a brief but memorable moment.
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.
In the intervening years, APC had a successful Off-Broadway run and a much-extended Chicago stint in 1997. 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 the Jessica Lange film biography of Cline). 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.
In Denver, the show has been so high-profile and successful, the company offered a free, Theatre in the Park performance in August 1998 to celebrate the show's third anniversary. Denver press reps aren't releasing how many regular performances of the show will have been given at the venue between Aug. 5, 1995-March 28, 1999; instead, they're holding a contest. Whoever comes closest to guessing the number will win 20 tickets to the closing night's performance and cast party. Second and third prizes will also be awarded.
For information on Always...Patsy Cline at the Denver Center's Garner Galleria Theatre, call (303) 893-4100.
-- By David Lefkowitz