Natasha O'Brien soars as Patsy Cline at Rainbow Stage

One of the great names in country music who died more than 50 years ago, is coming alive on Rainbow Stage.

Rainbow Stage presents A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline June 5 - 15

Country singer and recording star, Patsy Cline, is shown in an undated file photo. Forty years after Cline's career was cut short in a plane crash near the marshy banks of the Tennessee River, fans leave plastic flowers and written messages at the crash site. (Associated Press)

One of the great names in country music who died more than 50 years ago, is coming alive on Rainbow Stage.

Patsy Cline died in a plane crash in 1963. Her music comes to life at Rainbow Stage on June 5 in a show called A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline.

Natasha O'Brien stars in Rainbow Stage's show called A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline starting on June 5. (David Leyes)
Soprano Natasha O'Brien first played the starring role in the show two years ago at Thunder Bay's Magnus Theatre. Cline's vocal style is so unique and so recognizable that O'Brien had to go through a rigorous and meticulous process with Magnus Theatre's music director Danny Johnson to learn the role.

They used no sheet music (Patsy Cline could not read music) and instead, donned headphones and listened through Cline's recordings, line by line, over and over again, noting every nuance, growl, glottal stop and idiosyncrasy until it was absorbed.

"The result was, I had an idea of her style exactly pertaining to that song," said O'Brien. "It was also a terrific device for memorization because by the end of that process I was completely ready for the show."

O'Brien admits it was very challenging to master the vocal techniques in such an accurate way. "You want to be able to be as authentic and genuine as possible without turning into a parody. It's really about understanding the musicality of the artist and understanding the emotional connection that she was able to have with every song. And through that comes a more genuine interpretation of her vocal styling." 

Having an acting background really helped O'Brien achieve the emotional intensity that characterized Cline's singing.

"Patsy steps into each little individual storytelling role of her songs in a very similar way that I think an actor steps into an emotional interpretation of a character. So you just have to listen to the words and really listen to the music and interpret that for yourself. Some of the songs, the poetry, the lyricism, are heartbreaking," she said.

The actual show is a portrait of Patsy Cline the performer. There is very little dialogue on stage, with a DJ advancing the storyline.

"I think what that does is it allows the audience to have their own personal interpretation of who they feel Patsy was, because she was such an emotionally generous person as a performer, it is Patsy up there, you do know who that woman is and was," she said. 

Cline died tragically in a plane crash at the age of 30, when she was at the top of her game, which certainly added to her fame and mystique. She is the #1 Jukebox play in the world and her Greatest Hits album sold more than nine million copies. But O'Brien feels that her star would have continued to rise, had she lived longer.

"I do believe that her music was sophisticated and brilliant and timeless enough that had she continued to live, she would have still become as huge a star as she is today."

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline runs at Rainbow Stage June 5 - 15. Rainbow Stage is celebrating its 60th anniversary this season.