Portraying country music icon Patsy Cline, singer/actress Jill Evans’ powerful voice covers a range of 2 1/2 octaves in the Lyric Theatre’s fun, raucous musical “Always … Patsy Cline,” which opens Friday for an eight-performance run.
“It’s almost a Patsy Cline concert with a wonderful heartwarming story along with it,” director Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld said.
Evans, as Cline — who died in a plane crash at age 30 in 1963 — belts out Cline classics to the accompaniment of a five-man band that remains on the set for the entirety of the two-act play.
The story is about Cline’s real-life friendship with an ardent fan named Louise Leger. The friendship started with a chance meeting between the two in a Houston establishment where Cline was performing. Cline and Leger went on to exchange letters, and Cline ended her letters with the words “Always … Patsy Cline.”
Cline and Leger — portrayed by Hollie Blanton, who prances and talks in a lively, colorful drawl as she speaks directly to the audience — are the show’s only characters. The set does not change and depicts three locations: Leger’s kitchen, the Esquire Ballroom in Houston and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
Evans, as Cline, appears in many of the fashionable outfits including a red cowgirl dress worn by the singer.
Lyric Managing Director Eric Evans said Jill, his wife, sings 27 Cline songs and comes “pretty close” to sounding like Cline.
The play begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1963, the year of Cline’s death, Evans said.
“Louise was a fan. She heard Patsy sing on the radio,” Evans said. Leger went to see Cline at the Esquire Ballroom in Houston. “She got there really early and ended up striking up a friendship,” Evans said. “Patsy Cline ended up, because of airplane flight issues, staying the night with Louise.
“They just hit it off as good friend and they ended up writing letters back and forth. You get to hear a lot of Louise, her life and loves at the time, her connection to a guy on a radio station down in Houston. It’s a story about the life of Patsy Cline viewed through the eyes of her friend, Louise.”
Humfeld said Leger was a blessing to Cline “at a time Patsy needed a friend.”
Jill Evans “is a natural” at singing Cline songs because she grew up with the music, Humfeld said.
Show times are:
• Friday, Sept, 21 — 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 22 — 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 23 — 2:30 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 28 — 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 29 — 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 30 — 2:30 p.m.
Evans also said TexasBank is hosting a private performance at no charge for faculty, students and staff of Howard Payne University, Ranger College and Texas State Technical College at 7:30 p.m. Thursday