– Elyse Simich
The musical, Always… Patsy Cline, will conclude its national tour in Perth next week. Western Australian country singer, Courtney Conway, continues her role as Patsy Cline. “I actually haven’t had a lot of theatre experience; this is my first theatre show. We had a beautiful director, he’s from New York, but he’s originally Australian. His name’s Denny Lawrence. He helped me become Patsy Cline in the theatre show, which is not usually something I would do; it was a really steep learning curve,” Courtney says. However, she grew up listening to Patsy Cline, so she already knew a lot about he. “My dad was a big fan of classic country music. Mum was more into modern country, but Dad was always a fan of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, George Jones, all those guys. But becoming Patsy Cline was completely different [to just learning her songs]. I had to learn how she moved on stage and how she speaks and certain mannerism while she’s singing and things like that.”
The show follows the biography of Patsy Cline, who tragically died in a plane crash aged thirty in 1963. The musical follows Cline’s friendship with Louise Seger, a fan from Houston. They became friends in 1961, after meeting by chance in a bar. “They both had a lot in common,” says Courtney, “They both love country music. They both have husband problems, and they’ve both got young children. They both have a lot to talk about and they spend a lot of time together over the next 24-hours. Louise has been a big fan of hers for many, many years, requesting her on the radio and all those types of things.” The story is told through letters they wrote each other, and Louise’s radio song requests, “as she does that, I come out and sing the songs.” The show takes the form of a cabaret, rather than traditional musical. “It’s not a typical tribute show either,” she says. “It’s definitely a story being told. It’s very heartfelt, with a lot of laughter and some really wonderful music in between.”
Courtney is more of a singer than an actor. Her latest album 21 Days was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. She says she would “usually play my own style of country music,” so she took this role very seriously. “I had twelve months to prepare for the role, so I watched a lot of YouTube videos of live performances by Patsy Cline. A friend of my dad’s had a bunch of DVDs and documentaries of Patsy Cline and her career, as well as her family. So, I had a chance to watch those and watch her, not only on stage, but also offstage, around her family and things like that. I was able to learn about her mannerisms and how she would think. I got to read a lot of the letters she wrote to [her friend] Louise Seger.”
Louise is the only other character performing with Patsy. “She is played by the incredible Mandi Lodge, who has many, many years of theater experience. She originally comes from Yorkshire in the UK.” There are two band members who perform on stage as well, “We’ve got Tommy Harrison from Melbourne on the drums. And Ross Sermons, who’s originally from Virginia in America — he now lives in Tasmania — playing bass guitar and electric guitar. It’s really great fun on stage, we have a wonderful time every night.”
Courtney encourages young adults to watch the show. “I don’t think people realise how funny it is. So, even people in their 20s and 30s would really enjoy the show if they didn’t think it was all just about country music. You don’t even have to be a Patsy Cline fan to enjoy the music, you can actually come along and love the performances as well,” she says.
Always… Patsy Cline will play at Subiaco Arts Centre from November 23-26.
Photo credits: Redland Performing Arts Centre, Good Morning Cam, The Joan