ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE Opens Tomorrow at Peninsula Players Theatre
The toe-tapping, heartfelt musical "Always...Patsy Cline" created and originally directed by Ted Swindley is based on a true story. It opens Sept. 3 at Peninsula Players Theatre, America's oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County's theatrical icon. "Always...Patsy Cline" features more than 25 of Cline's classic songs and will run for seven weeks closing Sunday, Oct. 19 with a 4 p.m. matinee.
Patsy Cline, a legendary singer with an unforgettable emotive voice, blazed the trail for female singers in the country music industry. Her untimely death in a 1963 plane crash created a reverence around her recordings.
This down-home musical tells the story of the music legend's friendship with her devoted fan Louise Steger, a Texas housewife. The two gals met at one of Patsy's concerts and became fast-friends and pen pals. As Louise narrates Patsy's life story, timeless Cline classics like "Crazy," "Walkin After Midnight," "She's Got You," "Faded Love" and "I Fall to Pieces" come alive.
"The show is based on factual events," said Brian Russell, director of "Always...Patsy Clline." "Louise is a real person, and the story she tells about meeting Patsy absolutely happened. I don't want to say any more than that, at this point, because I don't want to give anything away. I've found in the past that many folks walk into this piece not knowing anything about this story and I don't want to give away any 'spoilers!'"
Russell makes his directorial debut at the Players but has directed other productions of "Always...Patsy Cline." Russell has more than 20 years of experience directing plays, musicals and operas. He was producing artistic director of Chicago's American Theater Company where he directed more than a dozen shows including "Medea" and "The Threepenny Opera."
Cline had a powerful and unique voice. She was one of country music's first artist to "cross-over" into pop music, with immortalizing singles like "Crazy," "She's Got You" and "Leavin' on Your Mind." Cline was the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and after her untimely death still sold millions of records.
"A lot of our focus has been on making every moment emotionally truthful and rooting the approach to each song in recognizable human behavior," Russell said. "In one of the early rehearsals, I spoke with both Christine (Mild) and Karen (Janes Woditsch) and I talked about wanting to discover the clarity and complexity of every moment of the show. Christine, I think, coined the term 'clariplexity' out of that, and we have been using it in rehearsal ever since. "
Christine Mild makes her Peninsula Players debut as Patsy Cline, a role she has performed six other times at theaters from Florida to Montana. Mild's Chicago credits include "Godspell" and "Les Miserables" at Marriott Theatre and "Fiddler on the Roof" at The Paramount Theatre. Her regional theater credits include the national tour of "Nunset Boulevard," "My Fair Lady" with Asolo Rep Theatre, and being Patti LuPone's stand-in and understudy for "Annie Get Your Gun" at Ravinia Festival.
Karen Janes Woditsch ("Murder on the Nile," "Chicago" and "Fox on the Fairway") returns to Peninsula Players from various projects in Chicago. She was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson award for her portrayal of Julia Child in "To Master the Art" with TimeLine Theatre. Her additional credits include work at Writers Theatre, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare and Northlight Theatre.
Malcolm Ruhl makes his Peninsula Players debut as musical director of "Always...Patsy Cline" and plays piano for Cline's six-member band, The Bodacious Bobcats. Ruhl played Jackson in the Broadway production of "Pump Boys and Dinettes" and was recently nominated for a Joseph Jefferson award, Chicago's version of the Tony, for his musical direction of "Hank Williams: Lost Highway." He has extensive credits in musical theater including "Blues in the Night" and "Smoke on the Mountain" at Northlight Theatre, "Big River" at Apple Tree Theatre, "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" at Drury Lane Theatre.
Cline's backup band, The Bodacious Bobcats, is comprised of pianist Ruhl, fiddle player and guitarist Lynn Gudmundsen ("Dirty Work at the Crossroads"), bassist Craig McClelland, pedal steel guitarist Louis Jay Meyers, percussionist Bruce Newbern ("A Little Night Music") and guitarist George Sawyn.
Gudmundsen calls Door County home and is classically trained but found her fiddle voice through the genres of folk, blues, country and bluegrass. She has fond memories of playing with Willie Nelson, who wrote "Crazy," at the Door Community Auditorium.
McLelland is a composer as well as performer. His compositions were recently featured at the UNM International Composer's Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the Phoenix Experimental Arts Festival.
Meyers has been a musician for 40 years, performing live and recording on guitar, banjo, and pedal steel guitar. His credits include recordings or performances with Willis Alan Ramsey, Bruce Robison, Killbilly, The Killer Bees, Tennessee Boltsmokers and many others. Meyers is co-founder, creator and former director of the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (SXSW) and is executive director of the Folk Alliance International organization and conference in 2005.
Newbern plays accordion, guitar and/or banjo as one of the Gazebo Guys and plays in various pit bands at local theaters such as American Folklore Theatre. He directs a contemporary music group at Bay View Lutheran Church and teaches general music at St. John Bosco School in Sturgeon Bay.
Sawyn has played guitar since 1967 and is fluent in a variety of styles including jazz, rock, country and classical music. He performed and recorded with many of the county's best musicians, and did session work at Hans Christian's Studio 330. He performs regularly in the Door County area as a solo guitarist.
The award-winning creative team includes scenic designer J Branson, a Chicago-based designer for more than 20 years; lighting designer Jason Fassl ("Butler" and "Lombardi"); costume designer Pam Rehberg ("The Tin Woman" and "Making God Laugh")' properties designer Jesse Gaffney ("Miracle on South Division Street," and "Butler"); and sound designer Josh Horvath ("Chicago," "Once a Ponzi Time" and "Is He Dead? " Branson makes his Players design debut with "Always...Patsy Cline."
"Always...Patsy Cline" is sponsored by Kenneth Raupach, with support from the Cordon Family Foundation.
Peninsula Players Theater is a professional theater employing members of the Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers and the United Scenic Artists Union of America.
Peninsula Players has been entertaining and exciting audiences since 1935, when the theater opened behind the Bonnie Brook Motel in Fish Creek on July 25, with Noel Coward's "Hay Fever." The company was founded by a brother and sister team, Caroline and Richard Fisher, who dreamed of an artistic utopia in the north woods where actors, designers and technicians could focus on their craft while being surrounded by nature in a contemplative setting. Peninsula Players moved to the theater's present location along the shore of Green Bay in 1937.
Prior to performances, patrons picnic and relax on the grounds while watching the setting sun over the waters of Green Bay from the cedar-lined shore and enjoy the ambience of the Beer Garden and other gardens.
The Peninsula Players performs "Always...Patsy Cline" Tuesdays through Sundays at 7p.m. with a 4 p.m. matinee Sunday, Oct. 5 and Oct. 19. Individual and group tickets are also available. Individual ticket prices range from $38 to $44. There are no performances on Mondays. For more information or to reserve tickets phone the Peninsula Players box office at 920-868-3287 or visit the website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.