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June 13, 2014

Cline’s music lives on at sold-out opening

DUNCAN — Although Patsy Cline died 20 years before I was born, I’ve always had an appreciation for her music.

And it was her music that told the story of the two women in Duncan Little Theatre’s production of “Always Patsy Cline.” The musical performance coupled the wonderment of Cline’s music with a humorous — and often inspirational — story.

The show, which staged its opening performance Thursday night,  was made up of three performers (not including the band that played Cline’s music to perfection). Two women (Michele Jones and Tonya Bardsher) tackled the role of Cline, while a third (Penny Gardner) played Louise, a woman reflecting on her friendship with the title character.

Even 50 years after her death, Cline’s music has a draw. Prior to the beginning of Thursday night’s performance at the First Baptist Church Chapel, Duncan Little Theatre volunteers set up 140 chairs. When those chairs began to fill, more  were added, for a collective 170 seats, all of which were filled for  opening night. DLT Board President Gina Flesher said it was safe to refer to Thursday’s performance as “sold out.”

As much as Cline’s music has left a lasting mark in my life, watching other audience members, I could see how much of an impact she has made on others. One older couple in particular drew my attention as the wife serenaded her husband along with the singing Clines.

While I have been to numerous Duncan Little Theatre productions in the eight years I’ve called Duncan home, this is a rare occasion when the show took on a whole life offstage.

The show was performed at the First Baptist Church, which was the right venue for the show. It might not contain the same number of chairs as the Simmons Center, but it allowed the show to be more interactive. This included a constant breaking of the fourth wall and characters dancing with audience members.

Let’s just say, this show was the most fun I’ve had in a while.

For Louise, I couldn’t think of anyone who could better fill the role than Gardner. Her already humorous personality brought life to the character. I know my sides were hurting from laughing so much.

And Bardsher and Jones provided new perspective on Cline, bringing brilliant singing voices that gave me chills. The talent these two women displayed made this show easily one of my favorite DLT performances, moving up with “Peter Pan” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” It’s performances like this that make me glad Duncan Little Theatre receives grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council to make such plays a reality.

Throughout the play, I tried to think what it would have been like to hear Cline’s career from the beginning, listen as her talent grew and her songs deepened in meaning. Perhaps that’s one of the great things about music. It makes you feel and wonder.

This play provided the perfect showcase for humor, talent and a story that will live on.

The standing ovation the three women received at the end was well deserved.

There will be two more performances tonight and Saturday, both at 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church.

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