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Kavinoky celebrates Patsy Cline

Some names need no introduction, and Patsy Cline is one of them. Those two simple words contain a legacy that spans decades and musical preferences.

"Always Patsy Cline," which opened Friday in the Kavinoky Theatre on the D'Youville College campus, is a musical tribute to the too-short life of the country music legend, who died in a plane crash in 1963 at age 30.

Directed by Tom Makar, the play explores Cline's relationship with fan and friend Louise Seger (played by Buffalo native Lisa Ludwig) and includes performances of 27 of her songs, including hits like "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces" and "Walking After Midnight."

The Kavinoky produced "Always" once before, in 2006. This production will be its first-ever summer offering, and Joe Demerly, the theater's managing director, can think of no better play to christen the summer season.

"It was one of the most successful productions we've ever produced," Demerly said. "We decided we'd waited long enough and to bring it back while the demand was there."

Besides a few band members, the "Always" cast remains identical to the 2006 production. Buffalo's Kelly Ann Krupski, reprising her role as Cline, said the pressure to perfect her part hasn't lessened any this time around.

"She's just such a god to so many people," Krupski said. "I just really want to do her justice, because she was such an icon."

Demerly said although Cline's deep, soulful voice presents a unique challenge, Krupski handles it well.

"I think Patsy Cline is timeless. The emotion, more than just the lyrics -- her voice is unlike any other," Demerly said. "Kelly captures it absolutely perfectly."

The play's title comes from Cline's sign off on her many letters to Seger: "Love always, Patsy Cline." Since Seger saved the letters, the play is able to draw on actual excerpts from them. This production will remain faithful to 2006's style.

"It was pretty apparent this was something special," Krupski said of the play's first audience reception. "This time, we sat down and decided, 'Why change something that touched people so much?' "

Telling Cline's story through a slightly fictionalized Seger's eyes allows audiences to see a more personal side of the singer. Although there are historical elements present, the play is primarily a celebration of Cline's music.

"The songs sort of highlight or punctuate the story Louise is trying to tell," Demerly said. "If it weren't for the songs, there would be no play."

That a production about Cline's life focuses on a chance encounter and a fan-based friendship is a fitting portrayal of the vibrant, outgoing performer.

"One thing we know about Patsy Cline is that she was just so over-the-top friendly to fans, people at concerts, people she met at a bar," Krupski said. "She was quite the larger-than-life personality."

e-mail: kkibler@buffnews.com

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"Always Patsy Cline," through July 3 in the Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave.

Ticktets are $30 (829-7668, www.kavinokytheatre.com).

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