‘Patsy Cline’ musical opens at TNT

“Always … Patsy Cline” wasn’t always on the Trumbull New Theatre schedule.

Ron Sinesio spent three months preparing to direct “A Minister’s Wife” as the second show of TNT’s 2017-18 season, but there’s one thing all that preparation couldn’t do — make the right actors turn out for auditions.

That musical, featuring a book by Warren native Austin Pendleton, is based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida” and focuses on a romantic triangle involving a clergyman, his wife and a young poet.

“I couldn’t get the poet — 19 years old and a very, very high tenor,” Sinesio said. “Men are very hard to find, especially in that age group.”

“Always” doesn’t have to worry about a shallow male talent pool. The musical about the country singer who was killed in a plane crash in 1963 only has two characters and both are women. And one of his actors had experience with the show.

“Connie Cassidy had done ‘Patsy Cline’ before,” Sinesio said. “And with 25 songs, there’s no way anyone else could have learned it that fast. She knew the songs and had the costumes.”

“Always” writer Ted Swindley also wrote “Honky Tonk Angels,” which TNT staged in 2013.

“‘Honky Tonk Angels’ had been a huge success when (director) Terri (Gilbert) did it,” Sinesio said. “We traded from a show that probably would not have sold, sadly, to one that will sell out.”

The plot for “Always” revolves around Louise Seger, a Cline fanatic who called her local radio station every day to request Cline’s music. When Cline comes to play in Houston, Seger arrives early, meets her idol and the two strike up a quick friendship.

The two only met the one time, but they exchanged letters and phone calls for three years until Cline’s death. The play has Seger reliving that night with Cline’s music interspersed among her memories.

Marcella Fields is cast as Louise.

“She’s often played as this brash, Texan, blonde, brassy loudmouth,” Sinesio said. “She has to be somewhat brassy but I didn’t want her to by this typical type.”

“Always” includes Cline’s biggest songs — “Crazy,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “She’s Got You” — as well as songs that Cline sang that primarily are associated with others, such as Hank William Sr.’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and Bill Haley and the Comet’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”

Cassidy is back by a band led by Alan Purdum and featuring Michelle Stoutamire, Thomas Hitmar, Tom DeNicholas, Robin Sanders and Michael Ognibene.

“I’m using the same band I used for ‘Godspell’ (which Sinesio directed at TNT last season). I’ve known Alan since I was in college.”

While TNT no longer is doing the show Pendleton wrote, the Warren-born actor, director and playwright will attend a reception starting at 6 p.m. Friday. Admission is $10 at the door, and proceeds will benefit the theater that Pendleton’s mother, Frances Pendleton, started.

COMMENTS