Think of Always…Patsy Cline as Stages’s Nutcracker – it’s a cash cow that fills the theater’s coffers. In 1988, when Stages first put on the show, written by Stages founding artistic director Ted Swindley, it ran for around a year. It was revived in 1993, 2003 and now 2008. According to McLaughlin, the 2003 version held the record as the theater’s largest money-maker at $404,000, but 2006’s The Great American Trailer Park Musical beat it. Not to worry, though: “I think Patsy Cline is coming to get her crown back,” he says.
Why is the show so popular?
“They love Patsy Cline,” says Houston Press theater critic D. L. Groover says of Houstonians. “I think it’s more a testament to her draw than how good the show is…It’s certainly not my favorite show, but they have such repeat business.”
Fans flock to Always… again and again. “It’s a little cultish,” says McLaughlin. “People come, they know the lines, they say the lines with her.”
According to Stages’s Jessica Knapp, the theater gets phone calls throughout the year about the show. “People are asking, ‘When are you going to do Patsy Cline again? Are you going to bring it back?’ There’s definitely a demand. We thought, ‘Let’s give the people what they want.’”
And that’s not a bad thing. As Groover says, “They have a pretty adventuresome rep at Stages, so it is paying for something good.” And Stages isn’t the first theater to repeatedly stage a popular work. “I think every company, whether it’s theater, ballet, opera, whatever – they all do that,” says Groover. “I’m thinking of Shakespeare. They always loved Hamlet. They would do that all the time.”
– Cathy Matusow