BWW Interview: Carter Calvert of ALWAYS... PATSY CLINE at Bucks County Playhouse
For Carter Calvert, the velvet-voiced, charismatic star of the Bucks County Playhouse's production of Always... Patsy Cline, stepping into those famous dresses and ruby red lipstick, belting out 27 heart-wrenching songs nearly every night, embodying the spirit of "The Cline"... is a dream come true.
Calvert, who's perhaps best known for her role in the Tony-nominated musical It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, has an impressive collection of productions and albums lining her resume-the national tour of Cats, the European tour of Smokey Joe's Café, Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging!, and incredibly successful Jazz albums, just to name a few- and once you hear that rich, resonant voice it's not hard to understand why.
Always... Patsy Cline tells the story of the surprising, organic friendship between the legend herself, Patsy Cline, and her biggest fan, Louise Seger, played in this production by the inimitable, hilarious Sally Struthers. Packed with almost every Patsy Cline tune you could ever hope to hear, and overflowing with humor, heart, and unstoppable chemistry between its two stars, this production of Always... Patsy Cline will have you laughing, crying, and humming for days after you leave the theater.
When I spoke to Carter Calvert, she was every bit as warm and engaging as she appears on stage, filling me in on everything from her personal experiences with Patsy Cline's music, to her opinion on the singer's enduring legacy, and even about the Bucks County Playhouse itself.
"I loved her from the first moment I heard her, and I was a die-hard Patsy Cline fan from 7 years old to present day." The love shows. When I asked her if she had a favorite song in the show, Calvert's answer shed some light on the personal meaning motivating her heart-tugging renditions of those famous songs: "There's a song called 'You Belong to Me' and it's a really special moment in the show... it's just a song I've always had a really strong connection to and I think it might have something to do with, it was a song that was really popular with servicemen, and my father was a Commander in the Navy and he died when I was nineteen. So, I had a real, just, a longing to have him back in my life. And so, whenever I sing that song, I feel connected to him. And I found out years later, in my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Mickey's kitchen that that was his favorite song, and when he broke up with his girlfriend, he played it over and over and over. So, it feels like a time where I get to reconnect with someone who was so important and so special to me."
Having a personal connection to Patsy Cline and her music is something that feels like an almost universal experience. We discussed the various film and stage adaptations of Patsy Cline's life and what it is about the singer that has captured the hearts of generations.
"... she told the truth in her singing. She had her own unique style and that's kind of something that everybody envies. You know, we all are drawn to people that are really solid in their own skin, and she was just a master storyteller through singing. If you compare her music with other music of the day, her music still sounds relevant, it doesn't sound dated. You can put it on in your home to listen to it and it doesn't sound like some kind of old, dated, not relevant song, it sounds like it was recorded yesterday. It just has notes of beauty and truth and artistry, and I think those are the things that have really stood the test of time. And she was drawn to music that conveyed heartbreak, and love, and love lost, and I think that's all things that we can relate to, and so I really feel that's why she's endured the test of time. And she was a strong woman who stood up for her beliefs and that's something we all strive for... I do feel like this is the time when women's stories should be celebrated. And Patsy Cline was one of the very first women to demand equal pay for equal work. And she got it. And she really paved the way for other country music stars like Loretta Lynn, and she was truly a trailblazer. She had no problems asking for what she wanted and what she needed and that's a story we can all learn from."
Undeniably, one of the most magnetic elements of this production is the love, respect, and friendship between Calvert and Sally Struthers, and it shines through brilliantly on stage. The affection was abundant in Calvert's voice when we spoke about her effervescent co-star. "Sally Struthers is definitely my main girl. And we just love each other so much, and she's not just a co-worker, she's family to us. And she says that my husband is her boyfriend. And that if I die before her, she gets him. I'm totally fine with it- I think everybody wins in that scenario, except for you know, me, I guess.... We just have a real great chemistry and a real great friendship and that's one of the main things that people comment on."
When I asked Calvert if she was excited about performing on the Bucks County Playhouse stage for the first time, she had nothing but praises to sing. "I've heard about it for years, and everybody said it's the most beautiful area, it's the best place to work, and so when Sally gave me a heads up that we might be doing the show here, I was so excited. And I have to say, this area far exceeded my already very high expectations."
Calvert summed up her feelings with this final thought: "I feel so lucky, because I get to work with someone that I love, singing my favorite music in the world, being in the cutest town ever, working with my husband, he's the drummer in the show. And the theater is super dog friendly, so my beagle comes to the show and he gets lots of belly rubs and head tickles, so it's a win, win, win for everybody, I have to say."
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus