Always, Patsy Cline

Always, Patsy Cline

It is unnecessarily dramatic for me to point out that I was the first person in my family to go to college. It would be exaggeration to say that by moving to the city and getting involved in bizarre things like steampunk, liberal activism and imported beer I’ve created a gap between my family and myself that can never be fully closed and that the music of our shared heritage is one of the few things we can all agree on. The truth is that I love all of my family, that my mom is still one of my best friends and that it was my dad who taught me to love NPR. Nevertheless some of these overly dramatic thoughts were shuffling around my head as I watched the thoroughly amazing musical “Always, Patsy Cline” with my sister and my brother’s girlfriend at Playhouse in the Park.

Patsy Cline died in a plane crash in 1963. Two years before she died she struck up a friendship with a fan, Louise Seger, in a honky-tonk in Texas which she maintained through correspondence until her death. “Always, Patsy Cline” tells this story of this friendship through the narration of Louise and the songs of Patsy Cline. Aside from the band, these two women are the only ones on stage and the story itself is mostly of the night they met. If you think that two women, one with very few speaking lines, are not enough to captivate a packed theater I am here to tell you that you would be wrong. Kathleen Brady as Louise absolutely stole the show. She gave herself over the audience unabashedly. The character of Louise reminded me of some of the women I worked with at Frisch’s back in high school: sassy, smart-talking and willing to make fun of herself for a laugh. Ms. Brady had the audience eating out of her hand and you could tell she was loving every minute of it. Carter Calver as Patsy was amazing as well. She has a wonderful voice and captured not only the charming and playful on-stage Patsy but also the more lonely and lost off-stage Patsy.

It has been awhile since I got to see a live theater performance and I had almost forgotten how powerful an experience it is. The intimacy and power of a performance are so much more palpable than watching it on a screen.  Although the story had a tragic ending, overall it was not sad. It was funny, life-affirming and uplifting. The audience was encouraged to sing along, clap and even dance. When talking about her divorce, Louise asked the audience who there was a second husband and to the one man brave enough to raise his hand she said, “You wouldn’t a been my first choice neither.”

Before the show our group had shared a dinner of burgers and slightly strained conversation. I was left wondering if I really have a connection with my sister anymore, not that we’ve ever really been close but it’s quiet jarring to realize that DNA and an affinity for biscuits and gravy may be all that’s left of a shared childhood. During the show we clapped and sang along to the music together, we laughed at the same jokes, and it did seem like afterward the conversation went easier. I know that the relationship may not ever as close as either of us would like. I know that my parents probably won’t ever understand why I spend so much of my adult life dressing up in costumes. But I think that night that I did remember that these differences are pretty small compared to everything that we do share. And even if we can’t talk politics or weekend plans without one of us rolling our eyes at the other, at least we can still agree on great music.

You can hear more about my thoughts on this in Episode Three of The Charlie Tonic Hour.

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