Free Lance-Star: Fall to pieces with 'Always ... Patsy Cline' at Riverside Center

The new show at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts is a love fest on many levels.

For starters, it zooms in on Winchester-bred country music icon Patsy Cline. How can you not love her?

Secondly, it stars the always wonderful Sally Struthers as well as her equally bedazzling counterpart Carter Calvert. Glad we have your attention!

And third, well, there are positive vibes galore and we’ll touch more on that in a bit.

“Always ... Patsy Cline,” a musical play about Cline’s unique bond with Houston fan Louise Seger, owns the Riverside stage through July 15.

Calvert stars as Cline and Struthers as Seger. The pair has been performing “Always … Patsy Cline” for audiences for the past seven years.

“[Calvert] and I have been friends for years and, when I first met her, I said, ‘That’s my everlasting Patsy and I never want to work with another Patsy again,’” said Struthers, reflecting on their first show together in the coastal town of Ogunquit, Maine.

Since that Maine stint, the pair have gone on to perform in countless theaters throughout the country.

“The chemistry is palpable, and you can tell that Sally and I really adore each other,” added Calvert. “Every show is different … and one of us may throw in a comedic line here or there and we just go with it. Once you get there, it’s such an amazing time.”

Calvert has an angelic and powerful voice, making a perfect Cline. She is perhaps best known for starring in the Tony-nominated Broadway musical “It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues” as well her role as Grizabella in the national tour of “Cats.” Her visit with Struthers marks her first time in the ’Burg.

As for Struthers, she is perhaps best known for playing Gloria Stivic on the ’70s smash sitcom “All in the Family” as well as Babette on “Gilmore Girls,” among so many other big-time projects. For Struthers, Fredericksburg has become a second home.

“It’s going great so far and I just love being here,” said Struthers. “For any place on the entire globe, you can stick a pin it and your view of the place can be based on the people you’ve met. I came here six or seven years ago to do ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and now have so many lifelong friends in Fredericksburg.”

Struthers’ Riverside credits also include “The Full Monty” and “9 to 5: The Musical,” among others. And, among the lifelong friends that Struthers mentions is Patrick A’Hearn, Riverside’s producing artistic director.

“She is family to me,” said A’Hearn. “We hit it off when I first reached out to have her here for ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and our friendship has blossomed from there. I love that she likes comes to Fredericksburg, too, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

“Patrick and I came out of the same bolt of fabric,” added Struthers. “We both love to laugh, are morbidly addicted to the news and love working until things get done. We love to laugh to the point of where I laugh so hard that I snort, and he gets red in the face.”

The Riverside production boasts 26 of Cline’s classics, including “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Walking After Midnight” and the fan-favorite “Crazy.” In addition to Struthers and Calvert, there will be a six-piece band churning out live music.

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a crew that cares as much as this one,” said Calvert. “Everyone is so kind, polite and knowledgeable. This is about as good as it gets.”

Given the success of recent Riverside shows and the star power behind this one, it’s advised to get your tickets early.

“People were awed by our last show, ‘Hunchback,’ and to have this show right after it, is something else,” said A’Hearn. “The ticket sales have been strong so far, so don’t hesitate. It’s truly on another level and everyone will enjoy it.”

Jesse Scott is a freelance writer and Fredericksburg native.