In honor of its 80th birthday, Norman's Sooner Theatre, is presenting a special production of "Always ... Patsy Cline."
The play is more than just a tribute to the legendary country singer. The show is based on a true story about Cline's friendship with Houston-based fan Louise Seger, who after a one-time meeting at a Texas honky-tonk in l961, continued a correspondence with Cline until her death two years later. The show's title was inspired by Cline's letters to Seger, which were consistently signed "Love ALWAYS... Patsy Cline."
The production features Cline's humor, some audience participation, and 27 of her songs, including hits such as "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces," "Sweet Dreams," and "Walking After Midnight."
"Always"¦ Patsy Cline" is being directed by University of Oklahoma alumni Trevin Cooper. Cooper has acted in and directed productions all over the country, a 25-year theater history in theater that started when he was 4.
Cooper said he was drawn to the project because of the 'heart' in the script, and Cline's all-to-brief life.
"One of the things that fascinates me is people who are cut off in their prime," Cooper said. "They become immortal in our minds. People like Marilyn Monroe. People like James Dean. People like Patsy Cline that have this great talent "? we never saw them age. We never saw them change. We just saw their talent and they really sparkled in the moment and then they were gone."
In the title role is Fargo, N.D., native and current OU Musical Theatre masters candidate, Joie Sherman. Sherman, who also teaches at The Sooner Theatre, first brought the idea for the show to Sooner's executive director Jennifer Baker in the form of a demo she had recorded for an Austin production she decided not to attend. Baker, not realizing it was Sherman's voice on the CD, thought the recording was Patsy Cline. Soon after, Sherman recruited Cooper, a friend from OU, to direct the show.
Playing Cline's unlikely friend and pen pal is Norman resident Michelle Breedlove.
"It's so important in this show to have a very strong Louise," said Cooper. "As much as Joie is so vital to the show, we're also very, very lucky to have Michelle playing Louise. She's fantastic, and it takes both women to make the show work," Cooper said.
Cline is a very different kind of role for Sherman.
"You can dress her up in glamorous clothes, but she was not the most feminine woman. She was this kind of down-home country girl," she said. "In musical theater, I'm used to wearing heels and being so feminine. Instead, she's a very 'what you see is what you get' kind of character.
"I'm just trying to channel that purity and let the emotion come through for the songs. She cries in her voice and people feel not like their hearing a singer, but someone telling them a story. They're all about personal experiences. It's not a repeat chorus, repeat chorus kind of thing. The songs take you on a journey," she said.
"She was not an entertainer in the way that we think of. She became famous for her talent and not because she had a gimmick attached to it. There's something about her music and the way she performed it that connects to people regardless of age or time period. She sang with an understanding of life that she really shouldn't have had at her age," Cooper added. "It's a show that you can't not have a good time at. It's such a fun show "? such a heartfelt show. I think it will really touch audiences."