We’re slowly nearing the end of the festival, but the musical series at the Charleston Music Hall is just starting to heat up. Produced by Sheri Grace Wenger, the series includes Always... Patsy Cline, Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven, Forbidden Broadway, and Buckets and Tap Shoes (which opens today). We caught up with Wenger to chat about the series, in particular the one show that’s been a Piccolo regular for nearly 20 years.
CP: How many times have you produced Always... Patsy Cline?
SGW: Six times, starting in 1992 for Piccolo Spoleto. The show had only been performed in Houston and Greenville, where the author, Ted Swindley, was living and working as an artistic director in theaters. We heard about the show, brought it to the festival where it got attention and write-ups in USA Today and Time magazine. ... It is still an ongoing hit around the world.
In Charleston I’ve worked with three different “Patsys.” I’ve had the same one — Lindsay Welch — play the role for the past four productions, since 2004.
CP: What keeps crowds coming back to see the show?
SGW: That’s hard to say for sure, but I think mostly it’s that people just love Patsy Cline. She was/is a revered artist, and was probably the first country music star to cross over to the top of the rock ‘n’ roll charts. Her voice is unique with its “flips and yodels” melded into a smooth-as-molasses tone. The story of Always... Patsy Cline is true, about an ordinary woman and devoted fan with a great personality who tells a simple story about the night she met her idol and made a dear friend at the same time. Louise is warm, likable, funny, and earthy. I think people who see the show end up loving Louise as much as they do Patsy.
CP: What else is on the line-up this year?
SGW: Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven has appeared twice before in the festival — in 2005 and 2006. (It’s really not a festival perennial, as reported, although it was done previously in the late ‘90s). I chose to bring it back because of the amount of talent available for the show this year, and the terrific band that was available.
Buckets & Tap Shoes [from Minneapolis] was in our series in 2006 and blew the roof off the Music Hall. Since that time, they’ve been on international tours, did a stint Off-Broadway and have become more seasoned performers.
Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 is the product of Workshop Theatre of Columbia, a company that I respect and have worked with on four previous Piccolo festivals. (I also performed with them many years ago when I was in college.) I love the Forbidden Broadway series of shows in NYC and wanted Workshop’s production of “the greatest hits” to be part of our series.