MSMT, “Always ... Patsy Cline” and a Memory.

Posted:  Monday, June 12, 2017 - 7:15am
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Summer Theater in Maine is off to a great start with the Maine State Music Theater production of “Always… Patsy Cline.” The 2017 season opener is a sure-fire hit for country music fans especially those who remember listening to the radio and dancing in the living rooms of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Created by Ted Swindley in 1988 in Houston, Texas where he was the founding artistic director of Stages Repertory Theatre, the show is loosely framed around the story of one adoring fan and her memories of Patsy Cline.

Christine Mild, as Patsy Cline, has a clear and powerful voice. She delivered upbeat tunes with gusto and ballads with a soft touch. Hearing Mild take command of a roster of 27 tunes, some of them good-time country songs, it’s easy to see how Patsy Cline crossed over so successfully onto the pop charts in her singular career.

Charis Leos is downright contagious as adoring fan Louise Seger. Leos is a delight as she interacts with the orchestra, traipses through the aisles, or confiscates a man for an impromptu dance on in the aisles to one of Patsy’s tunes.

Louise narrates the story of the day in 1961 when she met Patsy at Houston’s Esquire Ballroom.

Afterward, Patsy kept in touch with her number one fan by writing her long hand-written letters until the day she died tragically in a plane crash. She signed the letters “(Love) Always, Patsy Cline.

The on-stage band features Patrick Fanning, Stephanie McCullough, David Salter, Dean Clemmer, Michael Vitale and Jake Smith. These musicians, without imposing themselves on the story, are a huge part of the success of this production. They are in perfect sync with Mild at all times and provide the excellent music that makes the whole production dance.

Victoria Crandall, or Vicki as we called her, is the spirit who still lives on in every musical note and young actor who sets foot on the stage at the Pickard Theater. She founded the Brunswick Summer Theater Playhouse in 1959 but it wasn’t only the performers impacted by Miss Vicki.

On the opening night of “Always …Patsy Cline” a woman was in attendance who spent her childhood summers backstage back in the early days of the playhouse. Ronnie Hodgton worked at Bowdoin College in the maintenance department. He repaired things and cleaned up the broken parts of the prestigious college. Come summertime a new duty was added, the sets had to come down and be removed between shows and the new sets had to be loaded in.

Ruthie Hodgton Minzy was about 8 years old when her father first brought her with him to ‘break the set.’ “ I got to stay up all night long and watch the big pieces go out and in,” she recalls, “I will never forget  the night one of ACTORS asked would I like to go out on the stage?” She paused a moment and with a grin that recalled that 8 year old girl said “Why, yes I would.” And the little girl walked out onto that stage at the Pickard Theater and stood where so many would stand in the years to come. It’s a memory that still lingers with her fifty years later.

Maine State Music Theater is a gift to the people of Maine, the summer guests to our area and the actors and staff who get to work there. Thank you, once more, Miss Crandall for your dream.

The Maine State Music Theater continues with “ Always…. Patsy Cline” until June 24th. All of MSMT’s performances take place on the campus of Bowdoin College In Brunswick. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.msmt.org or call (207) 725-7869.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I have gotten more than I asked for. All that I ever wanted was to hear my voice on record and have a song among the Top 20. Patsy Cline”