The hit musical ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE was created by Ted Swindley in 1988 in Houston, Texas where he was the founding artistic director of Stages Repertory Theatre.
Having been closely involved with the development of new plays and musicals throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Swindley was considering ideas for a small summer musical in the Texas City that might have some broad appeal for local audiences. Fortunately, a young singer in his company of actors had the desire to sing the Patsy Cline repertoire and the idea seemed a good match for the Houston theatre even though Mr. Swindley was not a country music fan or devoted fan of Ms. Cline. Of course, he was aware of Patsy's big hits like CRAZY, I FALL TO PIECES and SWEET DREAMS but as he began researching the idea for a musical about the legendary country singer, he became an instant devotee of her wonderful repertoire of songs and the magnificent sound of Patsy's magical voice.
But a musical? After some thought about how to present Cline's music, he made the decision not to create a simple musical revue or a strict biographical epic, but instead he decided to base this show on a very simple "local" idea by simply asking himself the questions, "Did Patsy ever perform in Houston?" As fate would have it after a little research, Mr. Swindley discovered an interview with Houston housewife, Louise Seger, in a biography about Cline. What intrigued him most was that at the end of the interview, which recounted the tale of Louise's fateful meeting with Cline at a Houston honky tonk, a letter that Patsy wrote to Louise appeared at the end of the interview. The warmth and humanity of Patsy's letter gave Mr. Swindley the idea of an interesting way into the singer’s life, music and her effect on her fans. And so the simple tale told from Louise’s kitchen table unfolded on that Houston stage in an unvarnished cabaret piece, which initially was only 45 minutes long, and the show became an instant audience pleaser. Several years later in l990, Swindley re-approached the script for a theatre in South Carolina and converted it into what is now its full-length version.
Again, the show was an instant hit with audiences and the author knew that what was meant to be just a local Texas story had broad appeal.. Little did he know that Patsy's fan base was so deep and broad-based nor that the simple story of a fan's chance meeting would have such universal appeal. Somehow, it captured not only the spirit of Patsy Cline's brilliance, but it captured the magic of something truly Americana, part of the soul of country music...the music of the common people.
Finally after a performance of the play in Atlanta which as viewed by executives of the venerable Grand Ole Opry from Nashville, ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE was inviited to play at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the very stage where Patsy herself had performed throughout her brief career. As a result of this production, the musical now was a national hit! 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.
As Patsy's enduring legacy as one of our greatest singers continues to thrill listeners, ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE endures as a piece of American musical theatre that inspires audiences far and wide with its simple heart and pure joy of theatrical storytelling tradition. The rest is history yet to be created with this magical musical journey!
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