July 14--Katie Deal was a wee girl when she started singing and not much older when she discovered the tender croon of legendary country singer Patsy Cline.
As a music theater professional for the past decade or so, Deal has been onstage hundreds of times in numerous roles, but she is never as much in her element as when she is spreading the beloved songs -- "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces," "Walkin' After Midnight" and scores more -- of her beloved country heroine.
Deal will present "Patsy Cline: Today, Tomorrow and Forever," a musical play performed with a full band, at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Troy University Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts. The show, packed with 30 Cline songs sung in Deal's inviting twang, so reminiscent of Cline, is a fundraiser for four local community theater groups -- the Wetumpka Depot Players, Theatre AUM, Prattville's Way-Off Broadway Theatre and the Cloverdale Playhouse.
Mike Winkelman, a theater professor at AUM and Cloverdale Playhouse board member, is a longtime friend of Deal, with whom he's worked at the Columbus, Ga., Springer Opera House. He built the sets for Deal's new show and was eager to bring it to Montgomery, especially as a benefit for the ever-growing community and university theater scene.
"We're all so small that none of us could afford to pull the show in," Winkelman said of the local theaters. "But we realized that if we were to pool our resources, we could do a fundraiser for everybody, and that way, we can do it at the Davis, where we'll have a lot of seats to sell.
"I contacted the various theaters and convinced them that this would be a fantastic way to raise funds for our groups, and we booked Katie into the Davis."
A personal story
For years, Deal has performed as Cline -- she has done two national tours of "A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline" and has starred in "Always, Patsy Cline" numerous times.
"The Patsy Cline shows are kind of my niche," Deal said.
Though the lithe, blonde singer bears little physical resemblance to Cline (until she slips on a dark wig and gears up in the cowgirl ensemble Cline so often wore), the timbre of her voice is so similar to Cline's, and her connection to Cline's lyrics is so deeply felt, that she smoothly transitions into the role, performing to sell-out crowds that are often on their feet by the climax of the show.
But in this new production, which Deal co-wrote with her husband, Chris Wright, she's not so much portraying Cline as paying tribute to her, and telling her own story, as a Patsy Cline fan, along the way.
Deal, who calls northeast Georgia home, isn't likely to divulge that she is a daughter of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Growing up in a family headed by a longstanding politician, she became used to the spotlight. Her older sister, also an actress, "kind of pushed me into theater," Deal said. She earned a degree in musical theater, then got an internship at a large regional theater in Memphis, Tenn., and things took off from there.
"I've been singing my whole life. I've always been something of a musician/songwriter," Deal said. "We actually talk about this in my show, because my show is about how I became a Patsy Cline fan, and how I became a performer of her music.
"The show is basically storytelling and music. I've been calling it a new take on nostalgia, because it's my stories and my remembrances of these songs, and hopefully people will add their own memories of these songs as well, while they're listening," Deal said.
"Patsy Cline, Today, Tomorrow and Forever" premiered in February in Canton, Ga., to a standing-room-only crowd.
"So far, people have really responded well. It's a full two-hour show. Everybody loves Patsy Cline music, so it's not a hard sell."
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: "Patsy Cline: Today, Tomorrow and Forever" with singer Katie Deal and a full band; the performance is a benefit for four local theaters
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Troy University Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts, 251 Montgomery St. in downtown Montgomery
ADMISSION: $30; $25 for seniors
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