“There’s just no one who can touch her. Hell, I hang on every line,” Jimmy Buffet once sang of Patsy Cline. She is so much more than the first female country singer to headline her own tour, to perform at Carnegie Hall and to truly break down barriers of gender in country music. She is more than a tragic legend of young talent, villainous prompters and a cheating husband. She is a voice so strong and soulful you begin to wonder why you ever bothered listening to anyone else try to sing.
Always … Patsy Cline is a narrow slice of the singer’s life, as seen through the eyes of a fan. While there was enough drama in Cline’s life for six or seven plays, this show focuses strictly on how Cline and her music make us feel.
The script is taken directly from an Ellis Nassour interview of Louise Seger. Seger was hooked the first time she heard Cline sing; in 1961 she approached the singer at a ballroom, the two got to talking and wound up eating bacon and eggs in Seger’s kitchen after the show, sharing stories until four in the morning. From there, the two corresponded until Cline’s death in 1963. It’s a great little story, and one that was not unusual in Cline’s life. She was chummy with fans, and her letters reveal an easy familiarity and honesty about her troubled marriage, the ups and downs of touring and the heartbreak of trying to balance a career with young children.
Originally conceived and directed by Ted Swindley, the play is less about Patsy Cline and more about how she has affected us. It’s like a one-woman show, played by two women simultaneously. Sue Schroeder-White does nearly all the talking as Seger. With lines like, “Hall fell through his asshole and nearly hung himself,” Schroeder-White manages to channel the aging fan as she shares her favorite memories of Patsy Cline. As Cline, Michelle Sellers has few lines, but also has the task of recreating Cline’s magic over the course of 25 songs. According to ACE producer Jim Roberts, the Cabaret chose this play because in Sellers, they had a woman who could sing it. Sellers is remarkable. She has the whole audience swaying and singing along.
This piece of musical theater is a sweet walk for a Patsy Cline fan, and a nice way to meet her for those unfamiliar with her material. It’s not an exciting evening of theater, but rather a humorous meditation on the grace and strength of an incredible woman. — Anna Grace
Always … Patsy Cline runs March 15, 2013, and plays Friday, Saturday and select Sundays through April 13; $16-$41.95. See actorscabaret.org for details.