Patsy Cline Tribute comes home to Orangeville

June 16, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Leisa Way is bringing her Sweet Dreams, a Tribute to Patsy to Theatre Orangeville as a last little wrap up to the theatre’s season.

For three shows only, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 28 and 29 matinees and an evening performance on June 29, Ms. Way will take you down memory lane – whether they are actually your memories or not, you will still know the music. All the best known songs and the stories you might never have heard about Patsy Cline are the body of the show, originally written eight years ago by Ms. Way. Since then, she has written, performed and travelled with seven more tribute shows.

“They take months of writing and research; when I bring them home [to Orangeville}, it’s a thrill,” said Ms. Way in a telephone interview this week. “I’ve got six new shows I want to write – two of them right away.”

The surprising source for writing her shows – in the first place and since then – is Ms. Way’s mother who, it seems, has an encyclopedic knowledge of country and popular music from the 1950’s and 60’s.

Ms. Way told us, “My mom is the inspiration for all my concerts. She knows all the statistics. If she says  something about the timing or history of a song – ‘Oh, no, that’s what they say but what really happened was so and so ..’ and I go and look it up – she’s right. She has a comprehensive knowledge,

“When we’re going through the songs I am choosing for a show and my mom knows every single word of the song, that’s the song I include because I know it’s the one that was popular, that people will remember. If my mom is not so sure, I leave it out.”

When Ms. Way is writing the dialogue of the play, she sticks to the singer’s actual words: “I don’t make something up, Patsy died at 30 in 1961 not long after her big hit, I Fall to Pieces. So there is not that footage of her from television appearances or videos. I looked at every footage to watch how she walked and talked. “

She went on, “Patsy paved the way for women to make it in the country music world. She was the first woman country singer at Carnegie Hall and in Las Vegas. She made her big cross over to pop music with I Fall to Pieces – all of a sudden, country could cross over to pop.”

There was an older woman, Anne Armstrong, who lived in Guelph, as Ms. Way related this Canadian story about Patsy Cline with a personal side note for herself: “Patsy used to sing [at a venue] near Kitchener and she used to stay nearby. She was travelling with a band of all guys and there was no woman friend with her. One time, Anne went to one of her concerts and later invited her to come home to stay. Since then, they became good friends.  Later, she went to Tennessee to see Patsy there.

“When I did a show in Kitchener, Anne came to see it and after she came to talk to me. She said that was the closest to how Patsy and she brought me some memorabilia that Patsy gave her.”

We talked at length about Patsy Cline and Ms. Way told wonderful stories about the young star and her sudden rise to fame which was suddenly ended in her tragically early death. You hear those stories when you go to see the show.

Ms. Way’s second tribute was her show on Dolly Parton, Rhinestone Cowgirl and she finally had the chance last weekend to take her mother to see Dolly Parton at a concert she did just over the border at Niagara Falls, along David Nairn, her partner in life. They had no aspirations about where they might get seats or a spot in this 10,000 capacity concert venue where people bring their own chairs or blankets.

To their surprise and pleasure, as Ms. Way’s mother is in a wheelchair, they were taken down to the front of the audience space and offered actual seating.

“We had seats just right of centre in the front row,” she said ecstatically. “We sure didn’t need the binoculars we brought.”

We talked a bit about Dolly Parton as part of our conversation about the outstanding musical artists. She remarked, “Dolly is 70 years old. At one point, during this concert, she sang without accompaniment – so there was nothing to cover her and her voice showed no sign of fatigue in spite of all the touring she’s doing. She doesn’t need to tour but she’ll never give it up. She wants to connect with her fans. ‘I’ll never retire,’ she told us.

“There is something magical about the great artists – that’s why their music lasts,” Ms. Way reflected. “Music has that power to bring people together. [Originally] I got into musical theatre and opera. I was raised on country music – then I went back to my routes.”

Sweet Dreams – A tribute to Patsy Cline stars Leisa Way and her band, the Wayward Wind. On at Theatre Orangeville June 28 and 29. For details and tickets, call the Box Office 519-942-3423 or online

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