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BWW Interview: Sitting Down with the Stars of ALWAYS... PATSY CLINE at Circle Theatre

The production runs through June 20th outside on the lawn at Circle Theatre in Grand Rapids.

BWW Interview: Sitting Down with the Stars of ALWAYS... PATSY CLINE at Circle Theatre

BroadwayWorld had the chance to sit down with members of the team of Always...Patsy Cline currently running at the Circle Theatre in Grand Rapids. We were joined by Chris Grooms (Director), Vanessa Allen (Co-Music Director), Emily Diener (Patsy Cline), and Mary Kate Murnen (Louise Seger). In our conversation, we asked them about the show and what it has meant to get back on stage as we emerge from the pandemic. Also, check out the promotional video for the show below the interview - and then get tickets and learn more at Circle Theatre's website.

Why this show? What drew you to it?

Chris Grooms: I grew up listening to country music. It was always on in the house and in the car. There are some really beautiful stories that are told through country music, and I was eager to learn more about Patsy Cline and the influence she had and the legacy that she left.

Emily Diener: Patsy really paved the way for so many future female superstars like Dolly and Reba. She and her contemporaries stood up for themselves and demanded a place in a male-dominated industry. Her story is starting to get lost with younger generations so I felt it was important to tell it now. I also have a brother in Nashville who has made a career in country music and works for current Opry member Kelsea Ballerini, so I felt extra connected to the subject matter.

Vanessa Allen: Patsy Cline is an unsung music icon. I love country music and the life stories that are told through the music.

What has been the most rewarding part of the process?

Chris Grooms: Being able to be a part of live theatre again! Working and collaborating with the actors and fellow production staff is one of my favorite things to do, and we've been missing it for the past year! It felt great to get back on the saddle.

Mary Kate Murnen: I've always seen my strengths as a performer lean more towards the music and dance side of musical theater, because the character of Louise doesn't sing more than a few bars here and there, it was important that I rely on my other skills. This show absolutely allowed me to grow my confidence as a storyteller!

Vanessa Allen: Discovering facts about Patsy's life and music has been a very rewarding part of the process.

What's an unexpected hurdle you've had to overcome in the process?

Emily Diener: Learning how to sing as Patsy was surprisingly difficult. I had to "unlearn" a lot of the techniques I've gotten used to singing with and had to focus on what made her sound so powerful and so unique. Her hiccups, slides, yodels, and the sheer emotion that comes through her music is so iconic and so difficult to emulate. I just hope I can do her justice!

Mary Kate Murnen: The sheer amount of lines to remember was definitely a struggle. Louise uses a lot of colloquialisms and repeats herself a lot so it was a bit daunting at first. I have a lot of pages in my notebook dedicated to trying to get her story down just right!

What is your favorite part of the production? What should audiences be getting excited about?

Vanessa Allen: My favorite part of the production is actually performing the songs.

Chris Grooms: I love when the characters interact directly with the audience. I also love watching Emily and Mary Kate interact with each other. This show is about friendship and to see real life best friends and roommates working together, the chemistry is wonderful! Not only will audiences get to hear more than two dozen Patsy Cline hits, sung by one of Grand Rapids' most talented vocalists, they will be treated to a fascinating, true story of love and friendship.

Emily Diener: So far, my favorite part has been diving into Patsy's life and really getting to know her and getting to tell such an incredible true story of friendship between two unlikely people. Getting to share the stage with my friend, roommate, and complete powerhouse performer Mary Kate Murnen has also been incredible!

Mary Kate Murnen: The music is so fun, and Emily and the band really make it come alive! Not to toot our own horn but an audience member was so impressed by them he asked me if the music was pre-recorded!

One last question before we go - after enduring the pandemic year, getting back on stage has been filled with all kinds of emotions for many people. How has it been getting back on stage?

Vanessa Allen: It feels so good to perform live and in-person. Getting back on stage has been an awesome experience.

Emily Diener: After over a year off, I can't tell you how good it feels to be on stage in an actual production in front of a real, live, and in-person audience! Being able to share this story of friendship and connection after such a long time of many of us feeling deprived of friendship and connection has been very therapeutic. Mary Kate and I both definitely shed a few happy tears on opening night!

Mary Kate Murnen: This show has luckily been a really wonderful first step back into theater. Our team is so talented and thoughtful and they really took the time to make sure we were comfortable as performers every step of the way. It's been nice having such a small cast and band as well, it really feels like we've formed a little family. I couldn't have asked for a better experience!

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