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On Stage

Always, Patsy Cline

Musical memories at the Conway Muse

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When Louise Seger met Patsy Cline before a show at Houston’s Esquire Ballroom in 1961, she was already a big fan of the country western star. By the end of the night, and until Cline’s untimely death at 30 in a plane crash two years later, the duo were fast friends.

In the time Ria Peth Vanderpool (Cline) and Kelly Visten (Seger) have been reprising their roles in the musical Always…Patsy Cline—which is showing Fridays and Saturdays through April 1 at the Conway Muse—Vanderpool says they’ve also formed a special bond.

“The story around their friendship is reflected further since Kelly and I have become closer friends over the last six years of having done this show, now for the third time around,” Vanderpool says.

“I feel a deeper love and friendship with these two, which I’m sure is somewhat related to our real-life friendship,” Visten adds. “The emotion that comes out in the show is that much more real because of that.”

The play relies on dialogue from letters Seger received from Cline, and takes place in Seger’s kitchen, where the women are said to have stayed up all night talking on the evening of their first meeting. They’re both onstage the entire time, along with a seven-piece band that plays along to the whopping 27 songs that are featured in the musical tribute.

“We have added in some fabulous musicians, including a pedal steel guitar, which really makes that ‘country’ sound,” Vanderpool says. “We have new sets, new costumes, new choreography. It’s exciting to see it become bigger and better every time.”

Both women have favorite songs that can be heard among big hits like “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces” in Always…Patsy Cline—Vanderpool favors “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” and “Bill Bailey,” while Visten loves “Sweet Dreams” and “She’s Got You”—and they say they’ve become bigger fans of Cline’s music overall since inhabiting the roles. In fact, Vanderpool now considers herself one of the fallen star’s biggest fans.

And thanks to the old-timey vibe at the intimate Conway Muse, a viewing of the play might just make it possible for audiences to believe they’re listening to a young woman at the height of her talent make musical history.

For her part, Vanderpool is happy to help retain the illusion.

“People connect music with certain times in their life,” she says. “When they hear these songs, it takes them back to a moment, sitting and listening with records with their mother, dancing with their sweetheart, even the loss of a loved one.

“Through this show people are able to relive some of these moments, and that’s a pretty special thing. I feel like I have a lot in common with Patsy as a person, and I try to bring that out on stage. She was a confident, fun-loving woman but had her own struggles. I am so honored to be able to play her—probably the most special role I will ever play.”

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