There will never be another Patsy Cline.
And although many have tried, none has quite mastered the emotion and vibrancy needed to truly sing Patsy Cline’s classic tunes, such as "Walking After Midnight," "I Fall to Pieces," "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and her signature piece, "Crazy," with the passion that she embodied.
That is until now.
The Historic Ruffin Theater opened "A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline" last weekend, the second play of its 2014 season, to the delight of hundreds of Patsy Cline fans.
Cline’s talent and legacy is fueled partly by her untimely death at the tender age of 30 in a plane crash on March 5, 1963 at Camden, Tenn.
The 90-minute production pays tribute to the country music legend and showcases her career at various junctions in her life, including her time at WINC Radio, Carnegie Hall, Las Vegas and the Grand Ole’ Opry.
"A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline," written by Dean Regan and endorsed by the Patsy Cline Estate, is a musical treat and chronicles the life story of Cline, whose short but remarkable career is one well worth celebrating. The play, using local talent, is directed by veteran Ruffin Theater director Kay Bridgewater, with assistance from Jeanie Nelson, and produced by another of the Ruffin’s veteran directors, Lorraine Birchfield. A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline is sponsored by ADL - Athletic Driven Labs, whose generous donation made the production possible.
Brighton actress/singer Amber McCain brings to the stage a powerful performance in the lead role and delivers a stunning rendition of Cline, matching the seductively rich tones of the heartfelt lyrics that made Cline famous.
McCain says she has been a Patsy Cline fan all of her life and although this is her first time on the Ruffin stage, she has performed at several Patsy Cline sing-a-like contests.
The extent of McCain’s experience on stage was a secret kept from her monthly Bunco group, that is, until her performance Sunday afternoon.
“We didn’t know she could sing,” said Barbara Howell of Bartlett, a member of McCain’s Bunco group. “She was amazing and she kept all of her fame a secret!” she added, laughing.
“This has been an absolutely incredible experience to play Patsy Cline,” McCain said. “Patsy Cline is my idol and I’ve always looked up to her ever since my grandmother introduced me to her.”
Regan’s script gives us a glimpse of Cline’s life with the help of WINC radio D.J. Little Big Man, played by Covington native Hunter Short. Short delivers an excellent performance as the D.J. and Covington lawyer Frank Deslauriers and Tim Eddy erupt the crowd into laughter as the comics who introduce Cline before her shows. Tiffany Conner, Toni Cross and Deanna Emmons are the commercial jingle singers who remind theater-goers of the live action that used to be radio.
The live band pulls the show all together and includes locals Jim Adams on guitar, Wendell Combs on bass, Eddie Mack Owens on piano with Ronnie Parsons on drums. Chicagoan Richard Koc completes the group’s sound and brought the sweet tang only a steel guitar can convey from the Windy City.
“Oh, it was a wonderful show,” said a smiling Norma Phillips of Millington. “I’m an old country girl and I love country music and she was wonderful!"
The word is getting out and the show has brought in not only local theater patrons, but also visitors from Central Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.
“Directing this play has meant the world to me,” said director Kay Bridgewater. “I grew up listening to this music and it reminds me of the wonderful memories of my childhood but it’s also allowed me to expose the amazing local talent we have, not only to the generation who grew up with Patsy, but also to our children and a generation whose never heard of Patsy Cline. Her music is timeless.”
A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline will be on stage at the Ruffin Theater, 113 W. Pleasant Ave., Covington for one more weekend with performances on Thursday, Mar. 27 – Saturday, Mar. 29 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Mar. 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children 3-17, seniors 55+ and military with ID card and can be purchased online for any night at www.ruffintheater.org or at the Covington-Tipton County Chamber of Commerce.