We all dream of meeting that special person who inspires us. Imagine you strike up a conversation with your idol and develop a lasting friendship. That may seem to be a far-fetched possibility in this day and age, but “Always, Patsy Cline” tells the true story of how one lucky fan’s dream came true as she formed a special bond with one of the most iconic singers of the 20th century.
Starting July 26, the Millbrook Playhouse will present “Always, Patsy Cline,” based on the true story of the life of the late legendary country and pop singer. The play was written and originally directed by Ted Swindley, premiering in 1988 off Broadway. For this special Millbrook Playhouse production, the show will be directed by Johanna Pinzler, who has experience portraying Cline.
The play is mainly based on the true story of Cline’s friendship with Houston housewife Louise Seger, who befriended Cline before a show in 1961 at Texas honkytonk club, The Esquire Ballroom. Seger persuaded Cline to stay at her house overnight, rather than at a hotel. The two corresponded until Cline’s death in March 1963. Cline died at the age of 30 in a plane crash near Camden, Tenn.
Born and raised in New York City, Pinzler played the role of Cline in a previous production in 2001.
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“I worked in New York as a struggling actress-singer-waitress for 11 years. During that time, I performed at tons of regional theaters, including Millbrook Playhouse. I was here in 2001 playing Patsy Cline. So it’s really all came full circle.”
This time, the role of Patsy Cline will be played by Courtney Simmons, who won top female performer in Israel’s version of “American Idol” called “Hallelujah.”
Originally from the Philadelphia area, Simmons moved to New York City for college at 17, majoring in musical theater at Marymount Manhattan College.
“It’s a huge honor to be performing her and trying to resemble her essence; and you see her through a series of concerts throughout her lifetime,” Simmons said. “Patsy is just a down-home country girl. She’s a strong female character, and she has gone through a lot of strife and troubles in her life. So you sort of see the outline of that and how she becomes very emotionally connected to her music, which definitely demonstrates the struggles she’s had in her life.”
Playing the role of Cline’s new friend Louise is Sarah Michelle Cuc, who was seen on the Millbrook stage earlier this summer in “Grease” and “The Sound of Music.”
Growing up in San Diego, Cuc acted in community theater since age 12. After graduating from California State University with a BA in musical theater, she acted in several professional theaters along the California coast, eventually making the move to New York City in August 2010.
Louise considers herself to be Cline’s biggest fan, and she drags some friends to a concert and ends up befriending Patsy before the show. She then gets to spend what ends up becoming the most memorable night of her life hanging out with a star.
“What I love about this musical is that it’s all a true story,” Cuc said. “It’s so exciting for me to get to experience what Louise went through that night she met Patsy.”
Complete with down home country humor and storytelling, the play will include many of Cline’s unforgettable hits, including “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Walking After Midnight.”
“Singing 27 songs is a marathon, so building up that endurance, being able to sing that many songs night after night is definitely something that’s been grueling throughout the rehearsals,” Simmons said.
Pinzler said she loves the concept of a fan getting to know a celebrity on a personal level.
“In 2013, a country star would never just go stay overnight at a fan’s house,” she said. “You wouldn’t hear about that. And I love the idea of a time when that was not weird; when people were people.”