Patsy Cline Comes to Berwick Played By Nashville Woman
When Emily Whitlow takes the stage and croons "I Fall to Pieces" or another of Patsy Cline's greatest hits at Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick this month, the 22-year-old will be immersing herself in the music of her hometown.
A graduate of high school in suburban Nashville, Tenn., Whitlow came of age surrounded by the sounds and soul of country music. Now, she will get to play the role of one of the biggest stars to come out of Nashville in the Hackmatack production of "Always Patsy Cline"
"I lived in Nashville since I was 16 and that's when I became interested in country music," Whitlow said. But having a foundation in country music from its heartland is just a start for this recent graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music. In preparation for her debut on the Hackmatack stage this month, Whitlow has spent much of the spring diving into Cline's music and personality.
"I'm doing research on her on yodeling and her vocal breaks so I can be as close to sounding like her as possible," said Whitlow, as she tried on costumes from 50s and 60s in the theater's costume barn.
Cline, who died tragically at age 30 in a plane crash in 1963, was known as one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century. A country music pioneer with a rich tone and emotionally expressive voice, she helped pave the way for women as headline performers in country.
Among the 27 songs included in "Always Patsy Cline" are' hits such as "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces," "Sweet Dreams" and "Walking After Midnight."
In the production, which includes humor, emotion and audience participation, Emily's character almost exclusively sings while Louise, played by Molly Fenn of Medford, Mass., narrates most of the show. One of the most produced musicals in the country, according to American Theatre Magazine. "Always...Patsy Cline" was also produced in Canada, the UK and Australia.
According to Director Danica Carlson of Dover, Whitlow's voice, with its "notes and power will be jaw-dropping. "
"Emily has worked tirelessly on her portrayal of Patsy Cline," Carlson said, "wanting to portray the real struggles that Patsy went through, her emotional journey, and what made her the woman she was."
As well as a musical tribute, "Always Patsy Cline" is based on the friendship between Cline and Louise Seger of Houston, a housewife and fan Cline met on the road in 1961. Although the two women's lives on the surface had a little in common, they found a connection that went deeper than fame and fortune, according to Fenn a theater student at University of New Hampshire who plays Louise in the Hackmatack production.
"We know of the really sad stuff that Patsy went through and we can infer what Louise went through being divorced in the 1960s," Fenn said. "Probably something awful must have happened to her."
Cline and Seger became friends in a Texas honky-tonk in l961, and continued to write each other until Cline's death. The show's title was inspired by Cline's letters to Seger, which were signed "Love ALWAYS... Patsy Cline."
Whitlow sees the musical focusing on the way the two women supported each other.
"I'm sure Patsy Cline was extremely lonely on the road so having this woman come and say 'Let's be friends' and 'I'm going to cook you dinner' must have meant a lot to her," she said. Patsy had a sad life, she died at 30 and never got to live her own life. It was always about the music."
"Always Patsy" will show 8 pm Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15, Wednesdays to Saturday, June 19 to 29 and 2 pm Thursdays, June 20 and 27. More information and tickets available at www.hackmatack.org or by calling 207-698-1807.