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Revue relives bond between singer and her devoted fan

Erica Hansen nails replication of this country-western legend

Erica Hansen in the title role in "Always . . . Patsy Cline."
Erica Hansen in the title role in "Always . . . Patsy Cline."
Steve Fidel, Deseret Morning News

ALWAYS ... PATSY CLINE, Grand Theatre, through Sept. 24 (957-3322). Running time: two hours (one intermission).

Killed in a plane crash in March 1962 at the age of 30, following a recording career of less than a decade, Patsy Cline left a remarkable country-western music legacy. Along the way, she crossed paths — and struck up a devoted friendship — with Louise Seger of Houston, Texas.

"Always . . . Patsy Cline" is a theatrical revue based (somewhat loosely) on their long-distance friendship, with more than two-dozen songs, most of which Cline recorded and performed during her all-too-brief career.

The Grand Theatre staged the show last season and, due to audience response (including ballots turned in by patrons at the end of the 2004-05 season), artistic director Richard Scott decided to bring it back, pretty much intact.

There are, once again, knock-out performances by Erica Hansen as Cline and Toni Byrd as Louise, backed up by Kevin Mathie's onstage Bodacious Bobcats Band (all six musicians, who are characters within the play, share the middle name of Bob, including fiddler Sue Bob, played by Linda Clark).

The friendly banter between Patsy and Louise fills in bits and pieces of both women's stories, but it is the music — performed to absolute perfection by Hansen — that has the crowd literally dancing in the aisles. In her replication of the country-music legend, Hansen really nails it.

The revue starts in 1957 when Houston housewife Louise Seger first hears Patsy Cline on "The Arthur Godfrey Show." Immediately taken by her soulful rendition of "Walkin' After Midnight," Seger becomes a diehard fan.

After not hearing her again for four years (Cline was stuck in a disastrous business relationship), Patsy's first big hit under an all-new contract, "I Fall to Pieces," is played on Houston radio station KIKK. Seger begins calling disc jockey Hal Harris on a daily basis, hounding him to play Cline's recordings.

Nine of the revue's songs, including "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "She's Got You," are showcased during a segment set in a Houston honky tonk, the Esquire Ballroom, where Seger has dragged her boss and several friends. Here, the two women immediately hit it off (Seger even pretends to be Cline's manager in order to cut a more reasonable performance schedule).

Nine more songs, including "Crazy," are featuring during an entertaining bit that takes place at Seger's home, where Cline helps cook up a batch of bacon and eggs, and the two swap tales of marriages gone bad and dreams for the future.

Two poignant songs (probably not recorded by her) are sung by Cline before falling to sleep in the same room as Seger's young son — "If I Could See the World (Through the Eyes of a Child)" and the prayerful "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."

The rest of the revue touches on Cline's meteoric rise to stardom and the shocking news of her death in a plane crash en route to Nashville.

Author Swindley took some theatrical license here, having Seger hear about the plane crash on the radio, when in reality she was remarried and living in Brazil, and she read in Life magazine about the tragedy several days later after it happened.


E-mail: ivan@desnews.com