“Often imitated, never duplicated,” they say, a sentiment that can certainly be applied to Patsy Cline and one that Nicole Rasmus, who has portrayed the country singer 50-plus times, absolutely understands.
“I’m in no way trying to be an impersonator,” the 39-year-old Old Forge resident said. “It’s just about conveying the truth of her music and connecting with the audience. I don’t think anybody can ever truly portray Patsy Cline, but they can help convey her aura, her image, her truthfulness.”
Rasmus will don her Cline persona again for July 19-20 showings of “Always Patsy Cline” in Dickson City.
Rasmus grew up listening to the trailblazing singer and has always done theater. In 2001, she played Cline in Music Box Theater’s production of the show – then again in 2005, and 2008, and 2012 at varying other venues.
“I’ve done probably over 50 performances,” Rasmus said. “It’s an amazing piece of theater.”
It’s one that tells the tale of a woman with mass appeal, an artist whose unmistakable voice made her a country star who would eventually cross over into pop music.
“She has a velvety, soothing tone,” Rasmus said of Cline’s voice. “When Patsy sang, there was such a truth in her delivery because I think what she was singing about she was always feeling, and her styling communicated that. Her cries, her growls; it was truthful and heartfelt.”
Not only was her stage presence a notable one, her general demeanor was a hard thing to look past.
“She could pull her own. She was a tough, gruff woman,” Rasmus noted. “She’d be smoking a cigarette, holding a beer, and while she was singing sometimes.
“Back then, for a woman to speak up for herself and be so determined in a generation of housewives was incredible. At the same time, she was giving. She’d give you the shirt off her back, and that’s something you see through her relationship with Louise.”
Louise Seger is an integral part of the show, serving as the narrator. Paige Balitski portrays the woman who befriended Cline in a Texas honky-tonk in 1961, a strong bond that was instant and lasted until Cline’s untimely death at the age of 30 in 1963.
“She’s very colorful; she’s bold,” the 62-year-old actress from Scranton said of her character. “Her first meeting with Patsy, they got to talking about how she was going to sing at this venue, and she took her by the hand, marched her into the venue’s office, and introduced herself as Patsy’s manager, dealing with how long she was going to sing and all that, getting her a good deal. She was a no-nonsense kind of gal.”
And one that Balitski is seemingly made to play.
“Oh, she is Louise,” Rasmus said with a laugh when talking about her stage partner. “It’s wonderful. And we’ve known each other for a while now, so that certainly helps on stage.”
Like Rasmus, Balitski grew up listening to Cline and shares thought similar to Rasmus’ concerning Cline’s appeal.
“When she sang, her lyrics really got to you. She talked about the struggle of relationships and the struggle of love and loss. Louise said that when she heard Patsy sing, to her it was the way that she always felt she would sing, so I think in her way she was saying, ‘That’s how I would express myself.’”