In 1957, a Texas housewife named Louise Seger saw an up-and-coming country singer named Patsy Cline on TV and instantly became a fan.
When she heard Cline was playing at a Houston honky-tonk, Seger got there 90 minutes early. She struck up a conversation with Cline. Cline stayed at Seger's house that night at the two remained friends until Cline's death six years later.
Their friendship is the basis of "Always Patsy Cline," which opens this week at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. It's the Manatee Players' first production in the Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater, the smaller of the two theaters at the center.
The heartwarming true story, packed with great songs, has been one of the most often-produced plays in the country for the past 25 years. Preston Boyd, who's directing the Manatee Players' production, has played guitar in maybe six or seven productions.
Because Manatee Players made such a forceful statement with "Les Miserables," the company's first show in the larger Stone Hall, Boyd thought it was essential to make sure the studio space set high standards. Boyd's a long-time area musician, besides being a frequent guest director for Manatee Players, and his contacts in the area music scene helped him put together a great band for the show.
The play is told in a flashback from the 1980s, with Seger, in her 60s, relating the story of her friendship with Cline, who died when she was 30. It's often cast with an older woman playing Seger, but Boyd opted for to cast two younger women, Alana Opie as Patsy and Brittney Klepper as Louise. The casting, Boyd said, lends more immediacy and energy to the production that it might not have otherwise.
Details: Sept. 19-Oct 6, Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $26 general, $15 for teachers, $13 for students. Information: 941-748-5875, www.manateeplayers.com.
-- Marty Clear