Nancy O'Bryan never knew singer Patsy Cline, but she sure knows her music. When O'Bryan started preparing for the show "Always ... Patsy Cline," which opens today at Playhouse Merced, she spent a month listening to Cline's recordings, reading books and looking at video footage to learn as much as possible about Cline, her music and her life.
We caught up via e-mail with O'Bryan to talk about the show.
Question: How many times have you performed in "Always ... Patsy Cline" at Playhouse Merced?
This will be the second time I have performed this show at the playhouse. The first was in June of 2003. But I have also performed this show in New Orleans and Pennsylvania.
Describe the format of the show.
This is a two woman show about the life of Patsy Cline. Louise Seager (played by Dianne Kocher) tells her story about the first time she heard Patsy Cline's music, to the first time she met her and how they kept in touch after through letters. While Louise is remembering, Patsy Cline appears in different locations and times of her life singing the songs Louise remembers hearing. She is very spunky and full of life, making you laugh and cry throughout the show.
Did you do a lot of research on the singer?
Before the first production, I spent a month listening to Patsy Cline, reading books and looking at video footage to try to learn as much as possible about her, her music and her life. think so much of ourselves are shown through our music and her music was always so emotional, so I really wanted to make sure I was able to put as much of her into my rendition as I could so I could stay true to her music. She had a really unique voice that is extremely hard to copy, but I hope that I have been able to find all the amazing nuances and quirks of her voice and music that has made her music so timeless.
What's your favorite Patsy Cline song?
That's a hard question! I love "You Belong to Me" and "Lovesick Blues"... but I think "Crazy" touches me the most.
Tell us something the average fan wouldn't know about Patsy Cline.
Well, I'm no expert, but from what I have read and gathered, she was a down to earth, caring woman, who could smoke and drink with the best of them when she was at a gig. She seemed to tell things the way they were. I also discovered that Patsy didn't want to record some of her most famous songs... "Walkin' After Midnight," "I Fall to Pieces"... she didn't like them. But I guess her manager/producer was right because they became huge hits.
If you could have had the chance to hang out with Patsy Cline at a party, what would you have talked about?
Oh my gosh... I don't know if I could have even spoken a word... I would have just sat there in awe! I think I would have just wanted to know what she liked and how she felt and if she was happy. The things you can't always tell about a person by reading their bio or listening to them sing. I think I just would have wanted to be like Louise and just get to know the person... not the star.
Why do you think her music endures today?
I've been asked this before and I don't know that I have a real answer. Her music just seems timeless... it speaks to your heart... it's like you can feel everything she's feeling by just listening to it... that's how passionate she seemed about her music. And they are subject matters that seem to carry over from decade to decade. I think there is also a fascination with musicians/singers/stars who had such amazing talent and died at such an early age. I often wonder what more she would have done had she just had a little more time... I mean... look at what she did in the few short years she did have.
Anything else you'd like to tell us about the show?
This isn't your everyday musical comedy... this is special. Dianne and I have a friendship off stage that I think has allowed us to really click and shine on stage together. It's not just a concert... although it does have a six piece country band on stage and I do sing 27 Patsy Cline songs... but Louise tells a wonderful story that allows the audience to laugh, and sing, and tap their toes and cry... and really fall in love not just with her music, but with Patsy herself. You really do leave wishing you had met her and experienced the things Louise did. And it is a show for all ages... whether you know her music or not... you just love it!