Sierra Repertory Theatre is, you guessed it, crazy for Patsy Cline.
The foothills theater company is bringing the musical tribute “Always … Patsy Cline” to its Fallon House stage for the first time starting Friday, Sept. 18. The show recounts the real-life friendship between the late country singer and a fan from Houston named Louise Seger.
Texas-based performer Yesenia McNett plays Cline, a role she has stepped into four times already in the past for Austin and San Antonio theaters. But this will be her Sierra Rep debut in Cline’s cowboy boots.
“I love the part and feel lucky they brought me down for it,” McNett said. “My goal is to embody her, to make her as true to herself. I want to bring back what people remember about seeing her on TV and clips.”
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Houston housewife Seger became a fan of Cline’s after hearing her on the radio and in 1961 getting to meet her idol after seeing her in concert. The two struck up a friendship afterward that continued as a pen-pal relationship until Cline’s death in 1963 in a plane crash. The play’s title is a reference to how the singer signed her letters to her friend.
McNett said the strength of “Always … Patsy Cline” is in humanizing the country singer. Much of the dialogue in the production comes from the correspondence between the two women.
“That’s what makes it so relatable, to see Patsy Cline though Louise’s eyes,” McNett said. “We see what drew her to Patsy and what made her a real and a great friend.”
New York-based actress Laurie Dawn plays Seger and Sierra Rep regular Becky Saunders directs. The show is also chock-full of Cline’s greatest hits. McNett guarantees the audience will hear its favorite song among the piece’s 27 numbers, from “Walkin’ After Midnight” to “Sweet Dreams” and “Crazy.”
McNett said to capture Cline’s signature sound, she listened to and watched clips of her singing and giving interviews. She also does her best to match Cline’s tone and sound, which stretched beyond straight country and into jazz stylings.
But it was Cline’s fiery essence that really makes the country crooner unique, McNett said.
“What made her special was her fire, this groundbreaking personality she had to have. She wouldn’t have been as successful as she was without it,” she said. “I know if I had the opportunity to meet her, I would have been blown away with the force that was her. The music industry then was different for women. So she had to have a personality that moved mountains.”
In the end, McNett said, she hopes people get a warm wave of nostalgia and appreciate the power of Cline’s music.
“I hope a lot of people walk away with their own memories of her music and whatever things they had going on in their lives when they heard her on the radio,” she said. “The first time their heart was broken, the next three times their heart was broken – and they went back to listen to Patsy Cline songs. All of that.”
Always ... Patsy Cline
When: Opens 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18. Runs 7 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays and some Thursdays through Oct. 18
Where: Sierra Repertory Theatre, Fallon House Theatre, 11175 Washington St., Columbia State Historic Park