Do Not Decline…..See BRT’s Always. . .Patsy Cline
by Cate Murway
"A song-filled valentine"
-Los Angeles Times
Start spreading the news….. Bristol Riverside Theatre [BRT], with their current production of
Always. . .Patsy Cline, has broken its advance ticket sales record.
Historic Bristol on the Delaware is home to Joan Frances Marie “Jo” Twiss, a frequent favorite on the BRT stage. She is returning in the role of the Mississippi gal, Louise Seger, a longtime fan and friend of the legendary country and pop vocalist, Patsy Cline, who soared from obscurity to international fame in the male-dominated country music field.
Jo first portrayed the Houston housewife behind this international music revue right here on this same stage over a decade ago. It is based in part on native Mississippian/New York-based international entertainment writer Ellis Nassour's biography, “Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline”.
The late Virginia Patterson Hensley [September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963], known professionally as Patsy Cline, was a bona fide genre-transcending superstar on the elite list of the 40 Greatest Women of Country Music. She raised the standard for women in country music. Her career was relatively brief, less than ten years on the music charts, but her haunting, golden voice influence continues today, crossing a myriad of musical genres. She was a bit of a hayseed Judy Garland who clearly demonstrated that country music appeals to a wide audience. Patsy Cline died at the age of 30 in a multiple-fatality crash in the private plane of her manager, Randy Hughes, almost 60 years ago but her music style, wringing suffering out of every word she sang, has persisted. Part of the early 1960s Nashville sound, Cline successfully "crossed over" to pop music.
"Death cannot kill what never dies - love."
From Patsy Cline's cemetery headstone
Patsy’s story has been embellished in Hollywood-style on the big screen and ingeniously made into this popular stage production of Always….Patsy Cline that focuses on the fateful evening at Houston's Esquire Ballroom when Louise Seger learns of Cline's untimely death….a star who fell before her time.
Actress Jo Twiss’ life as a youngster in Lancaster, Ohio, included Girl Scouts, piano, horses and animals, and the general “playing outdoors with the rest of the kids”. She acted throughout her high school years. Jo loved the sciences but sensing there were “not a lot of choices for women”, she enrolled in the Ohio State University College of Nursing. She is the youngest sibling from a “loud, funny household” that included her brother, Mike, a retired pilot, and her sister, Pat Finneran, who currently teaches the 2nd grade. Jo’s mom was a Nurse and at one time, they both worked the night shift together, although in different units, at the Shelby Memorial Hospital.
Her extended family is involved in an eclectic mix of careers that includes photographers, nurses, teachers, an orthopaedic surgeon and “a dabbling of actors”. Her grandmother, Lillian Walsh performed in the vaudeville circuit.
She and her husband, BRT Artistic Director, Keith Baker, “love Bristol”. They moved here in 1995. “It’s a rich community of wonderfully talented people and artists that add to the town.” Jo is a vegetarian. Keith is not. They own a black and white cat and a mixed color collie, “both rescues”.
A shared fond recollection includes the memorable walk they took around St. James Episcopal Church in a huge snowstorm, as a newly engaged couple. “It was so quiet. We felt transported”.
“Always. . .Patsy Cline” is a “wonderful, wonderful piece; fun for everyone and the music is just wonderful.” Patsy was an original in her cowboy outfit with red boots and western hat, singing her soul at you.
Founding Producing Director, Susan D. Atkinson directs this personal story created by Ted Swindley, which premiered in 1990 that “captures not only the spirit of Patsy Cline's brilliance, but the magic of something truly Americana, part of the soul of country music...the music of the common people”.
The play had a very successful run Off-Broadway in l997 and has continued to be one of the most popular and often produced shows throughout America and has also enjoyed international success in Australia, the UK, and Ireland.
"Patsy Cline," says Always...Patsy Cline creator, Ted Swindley, "has now taken on the mantle of a legend. Patsy endures - in fact she gets bigger - decade after decade as she is discovered by new fans and revered by the faithful who grew up with her."
Jo shared, “I originally did this show 11 years ago. I bought a CD. Patsy’s earthy sound is so real, so powerful and speaks the truth.” Patsy had started her singing career at square dances and in seedy bars.
Jo’s part is that of Louise Seger, a rather “colorful character” who met Patsy Cline one night at “a honky- tonk concert”, posing as her manager. Louise loved Patsy and they had a deep friendship. She talked Patsy into singing in 2 shows, instead of one long 4 hour performance.
Their relationship began over a pot of strong coffee as fan worship and evolved into one of mutual respect.
“I'm worried about the band. I don't know any of the musicians and I wonder if they know my music.
Do you?” — Patsy
“Yes ma'am, every beat.”— Louise
from A CurtainUp Phildelphia Review
Louise [Everett] Seger Zurbuchen died October 28, 2004 in her home on Lake Conroe, in Willis, TX.
“Patsy Cline came from difficult background. She was a maverick woman who lived a rough life and died very young.” She teetered a border zone between country and pop as her career soared to new heights, and really changed the course of country music, beginning a new era for female country music singers.
Even though Jo previously portrayed her devoted friend, Louise, “any role you’ve done before, you’re in a different place. You come at it fresh and create new, and find truth of self to match with the play. There are lots of words!”
Normally veteran actors have established their process, but Jo Twiss is genuinely a phenomenon, bringing a fresh approach to the set that combines humor, sadness and reality.
“Just went to the opening night of "Always Patsy Cline". Great play and cast Jessica Wagner & Jo Twiss were excellent. If you like Patsy Cline this is a must see.” Sharon Marchese, Bristol, PA
Jo Twiss’ performances are always particularly enlivening and she passionately injects a vibrancy to her roles that makes every play pop!
She turned in acclaimed performances at BRT last season in Pride and Prejudice, and has also been seen in Up, which earned her a BroadwayWorld.com nomination for Best Actress; as well as Deathtrap, Steel Magnolias, The Spitfire Grill, and Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge.
Jessica Wagner makes her BRT debut as the title character of Patsy Cline. She has starred in numerous productions at Forestburgh Playhouse including The Sound of Music, Spamalot and Avenue Q, and in My Fair Lady at Ocean State Theatre Company. She has been featured in cabaret performances at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Town Hall and Joe’s Pub @ The Public Theatre.
If you're a Cline fan or just interested in who she was, do yourself a favor, choose an evening and make it “Crazy” fun.
It’s a pure joy of theatrical storytelling!
‘I’ll see you, hoss.’
Cline used this term of endearment "Hoss" to her friends, both male and female.
Always. . .Patsy Cline performances run Tuesday through Sunday until February 22, 2015, providing a tangible sense of the person whose brief recorded legacy casts a lingering spell.
Tickets start at $25, with discounts for students, groups and military personnel. Tickets are available by visiting brtstage.org or calling the BRT Box Office at 215.785.0100.
Directed by Susan D. Atkinson
Cast: Jo Twiss, Jessica Wagner
Scenic Design: Adam Koch
Lighting Design: Cory Pattak
Costume Design: Linda B. Stockton
Sound Design: Elizabeth Atkinson
Musical Director: Ryan Touhey
Musicians: Ryan Touhey, Nero Catalano, Bob Gargiullo, Kathy Goff, Neil Nemetz
2 hours including one 15 minute intermission
Bristol Riverside Theatre
120 Radcliffe Street
Bristol, PA 19007
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