When picking the production to launch the 2012 stage season at Theatre at the Center, artistic director William Pullinsi and general manager Richard Friedman say it was easy to do.
The duo, who make the scheduling decisions at the Munster performance venue, knew it's been nearly a decade since the tribute story of country western music icon Patsy Cline entertained audiences on the Northwest Indiana stage at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts.
Friedman also has the distinction of someone who is especially familiar with the draw of this real-life tale of Cline and her connection with one of her most adoring fans. "Besides a story that's both engaging and entertaining, there's also the bonus of audiences enjoying twenty-seven of Patsy Cline's biggest hits performed live," Friedman says. "This is a musical that fans enjoy as a chance to remember all the great career moments, while it also provides the opportunity for new generations to be introduced to Cline's talent."
Always...Patsy Cline, directed by Brian Russell, is at Theatre at the Center from February 23 to April 1. It was last performed there in 2003.
For Friedman, this latest run is like spending time with an old friend. Prior to accepting his position at Theatre at the Center last year, Friedman was managing director of Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, for nine years, where Always...Patsy Cline played in 1996 prior to Friedman staging it again in 1997 and part of 1998 at the Apollo Theater in Chicago, where it ran for more than a year heralded with critical success.
It offers a glimpse into the life of the legendary country singer who died tragically at age 30 in a plane crash in 1963. The show, which was written and originally directed by Ted Swindley, is based on a true story about Cline's friendship with a fan from Houston named Louise Seger, who befriended the star in a Texas honky-tonk in l961, and continued a correspondence with Cline until her death.
The production includes such unforgettable hits as "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces," "Sweet Dreams" and "Walking After Midnight." Friedman says the theater's musical director Bill Woods and his musicians will appear on stage as part of the musical's set during each performance.
The musical's name was inspired by Cline's letters to Seger, which were consistently signed "Love Always...Patsy Cline."
"We had such a long run of this show when I did it years ago, we actually had three different actresses playing Patsy Cline," Friedman says. "And ironically, one of our Patsy Clines was actress Hollis Resnik, whom we just had here at Theatre at the Center in December to star in our holiday show Another Night Before Christmas."
The 2011 Theatre at the Center production of Always...Patsy Cline stars Chicago native and Jeff nominee Michelle Duffy, who has starred in Desperate Housewives, House and Las Vegas.
"Michelle has never done this role before, but it's one she's always wanted to do," Friedman says. "And she'll be working with Brian Russell as her director, and he directed all of the runs of Always...Patsy Cline at the Apollo Theater."
Founded in 1991, Theatre at the Center is a year-round professional 400-seat theater at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, off I-80/94, just 35 minutes from downtown Chicago.