Sunday, July 02, 2000

Actress 'Crazy' about legendary Patsy Cline

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There was only one Patsy Cline. She sang sweet and died young, in a plane crash on her way home from a concert.

        Her country heartbreakers — “Crazy,” “Walkin' After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces” — became pop standards. Almost 40 years later, they're still pop standards.

(Ted Swindley photo)
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        Molly Andrews has been featured on National Public Radio's Mountain Stage and E-Town. Local audiences fell in love with her last year in Appalachian Strings.

        Now she returns to Playhouse in the Park not so much to play Patsy Cline as to pay tribute to her in the two-woman musical remembrance Always . . . Patsy Cline.

        “I'm not an impressionist,” Ms. Andrews says. She calls her performance “a deep tip of the hat from me to a great singer.”

        Always . . . is largely drawn from the correspondence between the singer and her No. 1 fan, Houston housewife Louise Segar (played by Strings co-star Adale O'Brien).

        They were pen pals from 1957, when Louise first heard Patsy on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts, to the singer's death in March 1963. More than a dozen songs are interspersed between dialogue drawn from the letters.

        Ms. Andrews has been proving herself an ideal choice to step into Ms. Cline's stage shoes since 1997, when she and Ms. O'Brien first performed Always . . . as a summer entry at Actors Theatre of Louisville. They sold out, the show was extended, they returned by popular demand in 1999.

• What: Always ... Patsy Cline
• When: 1 and 8 p.m. Wednesday (previews); 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through July 16.
• Where: Playhouse in the Park Marx Theatre, Eden Park.
• Tickets: $20 previews; $26-$32 adults, $20 children 6-12. Children under 6 will not be admitted. Any unreserved tickets are half-price day of show when purchased at the Playhouse box office between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
        Back in 1997, “I started to listen (to her recordings) intently, I read biographies, I watched as much footage as I could.

        Ms. Andrews is an unabashed admirer. “She had this tough integrity and real sex appeal — the girl couldn't help it. But she always made you feel like you could have beer, bacon and eggs with the queen after midnight.

        “But I don't put her on like a wig. I internalize the songs so they're coming from my heart. That's the way she did it.”

        Ms. Cline blazed a trail for women country performers, a fact appreciated by Ms. Andrews, who chose no easy path for herself. She began performing traditional music more than 20 years ago, long before audiences with eclectic tastes caught up with her inclination to experiment with blues, jazz, madrigals, Balkan folk music.

        “The music chose me,” she says.

        By the time she was 17, she was gathering songs that had the “straight-edged, pure tone, passionate and raw” that so moved her.

        Ms. Andrews has just finished a traditional music album and figures she'll tour it “sometime this year,” probably toward the West Coast and San Francisco. “I have a hankering to go back and get a burrito at my favorite taco-ery.”

        Much as she loves the city by the bay, Ms. Andrews calls Virginia home and, in fact, lives “just over the hill” from Patsy Cline's Winchester home.

        Ms. Andrews is taking advantage of the fact that she lives “just about 50 miles” from the Library of Congress. She's spending research time there working on a theater project “that's near and dear to me, but I'm not going to say what it is. If it comes to fruition, fine.”


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