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'Patsy Cline' comes alive at PFAA offering

Brett Soldwedel/The Daily Courier<br>April Manchester as Patsy Cline, left, and Linda Fine as Louise Seger sing and dance at a rehearsal of “Always Patsy Cline” at the Prescott Fine Arts Theater on Monday.

Brett Soldwedel/The Daily Courier<br>April Manchester as Patsy Cline, left, and Linda Fine as Louise Seger sing and dance at a rehearsal of “Always Patsy Cline” at the Prescott Fine Arts Theater on Monday.

PRESCOTT - For music fans too young or too busy to have seen superstar Patsy Cline at a live concert before her untimely death in 1963, the Prescott Fine Arts Association offers the next best thing: April Manchester and Linda Fine in "Always ... Patsy Cline."

The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 22, at the PFAA Theater, located at the corner of Marina and Willis streets in Prescott.

"Patsy Cline has always been one of my idols," Manchester said Monday evening before a rehearsal. "I've always wanted to do this show."

Although music fans may remember Cline for her country roots and country hits such as "Walking After Midnight," "Back in Baby's Arms" and "Your Cheatin' Heart," her music repertoire crossed over to pop, swing, ballads, gospel and big band.

Manchester, a 1984 Prescott High School graduate, stars as Cline, and with the backing of honky-tonkers The Bobcat Band, she gives the audience a taste of what a live Cline concert must have been like. Fine plays Louise Seger, who became obsessed with Cline early in her career, and the two developed a lifelong friendship until Cline died at the age of 30 in an airplane crash.

"In a way, my life mirrored hers," Manchester said. "I used toplay bars and clubs, hang with the boys, drink hard and play music."

Manchester said her father was a "huge country fan," and she spent many childhood hours in the 1970s listening to stars such as Cline, whose music and voice she especially fell in love with.

"My next-door neighbor somehow knew Patsy, and she had all her records," Manchester said. "And of course they were all vinyl LPs, where you really get the warmth of the music."

Casey Knight, who has been a fixture at PFAA for the past 30 years, directs the two-hour show. Donna Stehower, who has directed previous shows, is assistant director.

"I started looking at doing this show seven to eight years ago," Knight said. "I saw April when she did the Arizona Revue and Jamboree shows.

"I knew she was the only person I wanted to do Patsy Cline. She's got the voice, looks and moves."

"Doing this show is like coming full circle back to PFAA where I started. I've known Casey since we were kids," Manchester added.

Manchester, who divides her time between homes in Prescott and Gilbert, opens the show in Cline's trademark cowgirl outfit. However, as Cline's success grew, she dropped the cowgirl look and switched to gowns and dresses appropriate for her performances at big stage venues in places like Las Vegas and New York City.

The stage has three sets: Seger's kitchen; a bar and table where Cline and Seger first meet; and the band stage. With a lot of animation, jokes and audience participation, Fine tells the story of Seger's and Cline's history and friendship up until the time Seger learned of Cline's death.

"Linda has 95 percent of the dialogue, and April does 95 percent of the singing," Knight said.

Early in her professional career, Manchester, like Cline, traveled to Nashville looking for success.

"I went, but my dream didn't come true," she said with a Southern twang. "It was actually kind of a nightmare."

Although Manchester grew up idolizing Cline, she still learned some new things about her while preparing for the show.

"I never dreamed she did the song, 'Shake, Rattle and Roll,'" Manchester said.

In addition to Thursday night's opening, other evening performances start at 7:30 p.m. July 23, 24, 29, 30, 31, and Aug. 5, 6 and 7. Matinee performances are 2 p.m. July 25 and Aug. 1.

Tickets cost $22 for evening performances, and $18 for matinees, which Knight said are almost sold out. Tickets are available at the theater box office, 208 N. Marina St., online at www.pfaa.net, or by calling 445-3286.

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