Cassidy returns with ‘Always’

Theater, unlike baseball, doesn’t award wins and losses. However, Connie Cassidy might have earned a couple of saves in her career stats.

Cassidy will be playing country singer Patsy Cline in the musical “Always … Patsy Cline,” which opens Friday for a three-weekend run at Trumbull New Theatre.

It will be Cassidy’s second time doing the show at TNT. Her first “save” came in 2018, when TNT needed a fill-in after it was unable to cast the musical “A Minister’s Wife.”

This time it was because they had trouble casting the musical “First Date,” which was supposed to close the community theater’s 2023-24 season.

“Dang it if that didn’t happen again,” Cassidy said.

“Always …” is a two-character musical (not including the live band on stage) about singer Cline, best known for such songs as “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces,” and her longtime fan Louise Seger. The two only met face-to-face once but they corresponded until Cline’s death in a plane crash in 1963 when she was 30 years old. Cassidy first did the show in 2010 at Salem Community Theatre. The role may be the same, but it’s different every time because of the people she’s working with and her own growth.

“The first I did it, the director was Gary Kekel,” she said. “What an amazing musician. I went to his house three afternoons a week, and he would sit at the keyboard in his studio above the garage. I felt like such a big shot, being in a recording studio. He approached it almost 100% from the musical end.

“At TNT Ron (Sinesio in 2018) was more of an acting director. I’m not saying he didn’t have musical knowledge, he did a lot of musical theater, but he let me go with the singing and made it more about the acting approach and the emotion you’re evoking with the songs.”

Tom DeNicholas, who was in the band for the 2018 production, is directing.

“Since this time is such an incredible rush job, he’s very much, ‘What works best for you,’ that is his answer,” Cassidy said. “This is not your first rodeo — he actually said that — work it out between the two of you.

Playing Louise Seger is Julie Benner, Cassidy’s costar in Salem. Marcella Fields, who played Seger in 2018, no longer lives in the area. Cassidy said she hadn’t talked to Benner in years, but they are friends on social media, so she sent her a message.

“I don’t think it was more than 10 minutes after I messaged her, I heard back — ‘I would love to do it,'” Cassidy said.

Playing Cline’s band, the Bodacious Bobcats, is Alan Purdum, music director and bass; Tom Hitmar, guitar; Robin Sanders, mandolin, banjo and guitar; Tyler Husosky, drums; Pete Purger, steel guitar; and Marty Young, piano.

Despite her past experience, Cassidy said she’s doing more study of the songs and Cline’s vocal style this time. Cassidy’s parents both grew up in Kentucky, so she heard plenty of country music as a child, but her background is in musical theater, which is a very different style.

“Let’s go back and listen to some Patsy Cline and other country & western artists — Loretta Lynn, Dolly (Parton) — and see if you can throw in more of those mannerisms,” she said.

Cassidy has had an opportunity to revisit several roles in her career, and she always enjoys the opportunity. She went backed and watched the recording done for the cast of those past “Always” productions and will listen to her line readings and look for ways to change her inflection and delivery to get a bigger laugh or generate a stronger emotional response.

“I go back and think about, What did I do before and what can I do to make it better? How can I walk away knowing, I was happy, satisfied with what I did last time, but I’m really proud of it this time because I know I did better this time.”


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