Small cast telling the story of ‘Forever … Patsy Cline’
“Always… Patsy Cline” is a real show about real people. When production kicks off this Friday at the Little Theater of Tuscarawas County, it will feature just two major actors, country music legend Patsy Cline and his closest friend Louise Seger. The musical is based on a series of actual letters written by the two before Patsy’s untimely death in 1963.
Shannon Mitchell, playing Patsy Cline, will feature 27 of Cline’s famous songs, complemented by nine costume changes and interspersed with dialogue featuring Louise, the adorable and chatty character of Kathy Bergstrom.
Shannon, who is well prepared for the role, grew up in the small town of Ottoville, where she was active in the arts until high school. Her mother was a dance teacher and her grandparents owned a bar where they often persuaded her to sing her favorite Patsy Cline song, “Crazy”, on karaoke nights.
She received her degree in musical theater and education from Ohio Northern University and spent two and a half years singing, dancing and performing on the theater circuit. After teaching music for 13 years in Louisville, Kentucky, Mitchell moved to the area with her husband, David, and children, son, Gaven, and daughter, Cadence. The whole family has been involved in the theater in the region. David is Managing Director of Kent State University Performing Arts Center, Shannon is Assistant Professor of Theater at the University, Instructor at LACEYPAC in New Philadelphia, and Owner / Instructor of Studio S Stage and Performing Arts. Gaven is often found in the light-up booth at the Little Theater, and Cadence performs at school and dances 18 hours a week.
“It’s pretty terrifying playing a celebrity like Patsy Cline,” Shannon said. “The public has expectations that are difficult to meet. I have never had the opportunity to portray a person who has actually lived before. It took a lot of research, and during that research I learned how amazing Patsy Cline was and saw, for the first time, how she came and went from country to elegant. with ease. One wonders what her musical style would have been if she had lived beyond 30 years. “
“She has said very little on stage or in interviews,” Shannon said. “I felt like she was shy unless it was happening. When I first read the script, I began to realize that her friend Louise was leading the kind of life Patsy would have liked. Their friendship was an escape, and of great value to her.
Shannon said it was a wonderful experience to sing with a live band rather than with freaks like almost everyone does now. “All that experience with the director, Rex Huffman’s help, cast and crew made me feel like a real rock star up there.”
Kathy Bergstrom has hardly left the theater since last October. After she finished conducting the musical special, “All Together Now”, she jumped straight into the rehearsals of “Almost… Patsy Cline”. She, too, is well prepared for the role. Raised in Buffalo, New York, she graduated from Syracuse University in advertising. A classically trained singer, she has performed with the Buffalo Opera Company, the Buffalo Philharmonic and most recently the Tuscarawas County Philharmonic. While living in Orlando, Florida, she was vice president of creative services for a large real estate company. She has been artistic director for several magazines and won national awards for design and layout.
Since moving to Dover, Bergstrom has continued to exploit her many talents as owner and editor-in-chief of “Ohio Family Magazine”, guide at the Reeves Museum and cantor, senior and youth choirmaster at the Dover First Moravian Church. She currently works at the Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital, Reeves Home, and runs her printing business, Blair Graphic Design and Printing.
Bergstrom got involved in the Petit Théâtre in 2002 and has played an active role there ever since. Having created all the posters, programs and banners since then, she was also the editor of the theater newsletter “Curtain Call” and a member of the board of directors for three years. She is a member of the Theater Original Productions group and hosted the recent ‘Sounds Like Radio’ show when the theater was dark during the pandemic
After working as an assistant director on ‘Willy Wonka’, ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, ‘The Addams Family’ and ‘Shrek the Musical’, Bergstrom directed ‘Sabrina’, for which she designed the award-winning set for the the Ohio Community Theater Association, “Junie B in Jingle Bells Batman Smells”, as well as writing and directing the accompanying production of “A Visit With Mrs. Claus”. She has been seen in numerous plays and musicals on stage. Her family includes her husband, Bob, and daughter, Danielle Blair.
“I auditioned for this show because it’s different from any show we’ve done here,” Kathy said. “It was an opportunity to tell the real stories of real people in an intimate setting. The characters required research and interpretation. There hasn’t been a lot of writing about Louise other than an article she herself wrote about her friendship with Patsy. I read that her daughter left the theater in tears after a production that used Louise as comedic relief and made her stupid.
“I’m so grateful that Louise’s vision of our director, Rex Huffman, didn’t portray her as silly. Her directing got us to work to make the characters real. There was a lot of creative license written into it. series. “
“From what I can tell,” said Kathy, “Louise and Patsy both led difficult lives. Louise has divorced several times. She lost a son when he was 29. Patsy had an unhappy marriage .I think Louise had a big heart and cared about Patsy as a true friend, rather than because of her fame.It seemed like each of the friends was accomplishing in the other what was missing in their own lives.
“Always… Patsy Cline” takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, January 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16, with evening performances on Fridays and Saturdays, and mornings on Saturdays and Sundays. Evening shows start at 7:30 p.m. and mornings at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased from the Kent State PAC Box Office, online at TheLittleTheatreOnline.org or at the door. They are $ 15. For adults, $ 10. for students and children. “Always… Patsy Cline” is sponsored by Levco Striping Services.