Country singer Patsy Cline’s career may have ended too soon in the early 1960s, but her music and legacy live on with her many fans, including one who is at the heart of the musical “Always, Patsy Cline,” which opened this past weekend at Glendale Centre Theatre.
The production features a live band and uses a small stage area on one side of the theater, much like it was used in past few productions such as “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and “Mary Poppins.”
“The show requires a performance stage for various locations, the Grand Ole Opry and the Esquire Ballroom, so you need to have something that just transports the audience to a performance venue,” said director Robert Marra, who is directing his third show at the local theater.
He’s also played the title role in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Glendale venue three times.
In some of the numbers, though, Cline, played by Cori Cable Kidder, starts on the stage area and comes down and “works the whole house,” Marra said.
A majority of the rest of the stage is made up of set pieces for Cline’s “biggest fan,” named Louise, played by Ann Myers, who serves as the musical’s narrator.
Louise invites the famous singer back to her home after seeing her perform at the Esquire Ballroom in Houston, Texas.
Cline spends the night at Louise’s house and, during the course of the evening, they share heart-to-heart moments and form a bond that lasts until Cline’s untimely death at age 30 — and after.
This is the second time Cable Kidder and Marra have worked together on “Always, Patsy Cline,” both in the same capacities at the Sierra Madre Playhouse three years ago.
“I’m able to enjoy it more,” Cable Kidder said of her second time around in the role.
She said she did most of her prep work, in terms of learning the words and nuances of the songs, three years ago.
“I’m more mature vocally. I’m much more of a mature performer. So it’s afforded me a different perspective,” Cable Kidder said.
She said she’s enjoyed the challenge of performing in a stage setting where the audience almost encircles her.
“To be able to stand in one place but to play to people all around me, and then to go out among them, it’s a challenge, but it’s very rewarding to make everyone feel a part of the experience, even though I may not be looking directly at them,” Cable Kidder said.
She said “Lovesick Blues” is probably the most technically difficult song for her in the production.
“It’s a yodeler,” she said.
However, the hardest song for her to sing from an emotional standpoint is “True Love,” she added.
Myers, who received the show’s script about two weeks before opening night, said she’s enjoyed learning the many, many lines Louise delivers during the two-hour production.
“[Louise] has a beautiful task of telling the story about how they met through her own eyes, but then it allows the audience to fill in the blanks with their experience with Patsy and what they bring to it,” Myers said.
“So, yeah, I love the times when I get to just give the exposition of what happens because I know everybody’s imagination will be different in how they picture that,” she added.
The two were similar in several ways, Cable Kidder said.
“Louise would never have met Patsy if she didn’t make it happen, and Patsy would not have been famous if she hasn’t made it happen either,” she said, referring to the fact that the singer, in the beginning of her career, would take a 45 record to various radio stations to have them play it.
“They were two strong women,” Marra said.
“Always, Patsy Cline” continues through Oct. 6.