Channeling Patsy

'Always ... Patsy Cline' premieres March 4 at Marlintini's

Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2005

Music fans know Patsy Cline as the regal voice behind dozens of country songs from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Though her recording career lasted just eight years (she died in an airplane crash at 30), her heavy influence on country, rock and pop is unquestionable.

Houston electronics technician Louise Seger met Cline before a May 1961 show at the Esquire Ballroom. They stayed up until 4 a.m., talking about their lives, and the two stayed in touch until Cline's death.

New York playwright Ted Swindley drew on interviews with Seger for the two-woman play "Always ... Patsy Cline," which premiered in Houston in 1988 and now comes to Marlintini's.

Juneau actress Patricia Hull plays Patsy, while storyteller and KTOO blues host Grace Elliott has the role of Louise. The biopic chronicles Louise's perceptions of Patsy, and the ways in which music affected both women. It includes 21 Cline songs, all sung by Hull.

"Patsy never lost sight of where she was, or where she came from," Hull said. "Louise and Patsy were cut from the same cloth. They were both women who weren't afraid to speak their mind, women with true grit and guts."

"It's a really down-home relationship," Elliott said. "Louise is the kind of person who can see the real person behind the star. She's not the kind of person who gets star-struck. And Patsy can see that here's somebody who is not going to be fawning over me for my entire life. A genuine kind-hearted good spirited person, who will treat me like a normal human being."

"Always ... Patsy Cline" plays at 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, March 4-5, and Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12.

Tickets are $17 at the door, or $15 in advance at Hearthside Books, Marlintini's (after 4 p.m.), the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and the Paradise Cafe.

Marlintini's is in the Valley, off Glacier Highway, above Donna's in the Airport Shopping Center. The bar will be open, so patrons must be 21 unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. The show does not contain material inappropriate for children. Marlintini's seats about 250. All shows are no-smoking, and proceeds will benefit the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. The show runs about 90 minutes, including an intermission.

Song lineup

The 24 Patsy Cline songs in the original 1988 production of Ted Swindley's "Always ... Patsy Cline" are:

• "Honky-tonk Merry-Go-Round"

• "Walkin' After Midnight"

• "Your Cheating Heart"

• "Crazy"

• "Sweet Dreams"

• "I Fall To Pieces"

• "Faded Love"

• "She's Got You"

• "Anytime"

• "If You've Got Leavin' On Your Mind"

• "Back In Baby's Arms"

• "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-tonk Angels"

• "Come On In, Sit Right Down and Make Yourself At Home"

• "I Love You Honey"

• "San Antonio Rose"

• "Lovesick Blues"

• "Two Cigarettes in an Ashtray"

• "Seven Lonely Days"

• "If I Could See the World through the Eyes Of A Child"

• "Just a Closer Walk with Thee"

• "Blue Moon of Kentucky"

• "Got a Lot of Rhythm in My Soul"

• "True Love"

• "Bill Bailey"

Hull started thinking about putting together a play in August, when she looked at the calendar of upcoming Juneau theater events and didn't find any roles that suited her. She searched the Web for a small show, starring one or two women, and found "Always ... Patsy Cline."

"It seemed like this was one of these shows that really resonated in communities all across the country, and I thought it would be a great show to link the Valley and the downtown," Hull said. "We have lots of country fans all over Juneau, and there haven't been that many artsy things going on in the Valley."

Hull and Elliott have known each other since the early 1980s, when they worked at the New Orpheum Theatre.

"When you're a storyteller, you're communicating directly to a group of people," Elliott said. "There's no fourth wall. That was, for me, a very comfortable mode to be in. When you go to do a theater piece, youre working with other people. Its very interesting for me to interact in a different way with a story."

Hull asked longtime Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre volunteer Charlotte Carroll to direct. Carroll was Hull's first director, for Juneau-Douglas High School's 1978 production of "My Fair Lady."

"I've been a big fan of Patsy Cline, I knew the music and one of my mom's favorite songs in the whole world was 'True Love,'" Carroll said. "When I saw that, I said, 'OK mom, this one's for you.'"

The show wouldn't work without a capable backing band. Hull immediately thought of the Knight Riders, a country-blues-rock duo that plays at The Sandbar two to four months a year. She went to high school with John Knight, bass, and his brother Mark Knight, pedal lap steel. The Knight Riders cover three Cline songs, "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces" and "Back in Baby's Arms."

"(Patricia) knew that we knew the material very well," Mark Knight said. "Everybody knows Patsy Cline and the legacy that she had up until her untimely death."

The Knights quickly assembled a five-piece. Leo Bayeur, a former member of The Knight Riders and an occasional fill-in, plays lead guitar. Andy Engstrom, John Knight's brother-in-law and another Knight Riders fill-in, drums. Riley Woodford of The Bobb Family Band plays acoustic rhythm guitar.

From there, it was up to Hull to learn the 21 Patsy Cline songs in the show. She bought charts and scores, and listened intensively to the music for the last few months, dissecting Cline's musical vocabulary and trying to reassemble the pieces.

"She has this ability to sing a little behind the beat, like Billie Holiday," she said. "She has this way of saying certain words and breathing, carrying through a phrase. You really get the feeling that she's speaking to you."



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