No duels, no pyrotechnics and no chorus girls; just a woman and her cowboy hat on stage at Old Town Playhouse in Traverse City.

Always…Patsy Cline is different from the mainstream musicals Old Town Playhouse usually tackles. Yet, the off-Broadway hit will open the theater’s 50th anniversary season in September.

“It’s nice that in our 50th year we’re reaching out to another type of music,” said Always…Patsy Cline director Jeanette Mason, who has been involved with the theater for 37 years. “It shows that the playhouse is growing and changing.”

And Old Town Playhouse isn’t stopping there. Also new to the playhouse in its 50th year is a Star Search-like tryout in place of the theater’s standard audition process. Theater personnel are hoping to find a rising country western star through audition CDs and Tapes rather than waiting for actors to attend open casting calls.

“This musical has 27 numbers—all solos,” said Carly McCall, executive assistant at Old Town Playhouse. “The role of Patsy Cline requires a lot of depth in someone’s ability … we don’t normally see that kind of person coming to audition for our musicals, so we felt we needed to reach out to a whole different musical community.”

However, the musical community Old Town Playhouse attempted to attract didn’t respond as quickly as the theater would have liked.

So rather than closing the curtain on audition submissions, the judges will review all applications received through Monday, July 13. Then, anywhere from 12 to 20 semifinalists will be invited to a casting call at 7 p.m. on July 20, open to the public.

Though American Idol judges Paula, Simon and Randy won’t be present and the audience’s votes will have no bearing on the winner, McCall knows the process will be a success.

“We’re looking for someone who can do this and do this well,” she said. “Twenty-seven songs a night for a month. This is a part-time job they’re taking on. It’s a lot of work.”

It seems casting a two-person show is not so quick and painless. Between looking for someone to take on the role of Cline’s friend Louise, who narrates the entire production, as well as finding a country western star and, of course, her country western band, it’s a grueling process.

While those involved with Old Town Playhouse are breaking new ground after 50 years by producing their first country western musical, they will also be exploring familiar territory throughout the season. The playhouse produced You Can’t Take it With You when it first opened its doors (and stage curtain) in 1960. And to celebrate half a century of success, the play will be the first production of 2010.

Visit for more information on how to apply for Always…Patsy Cline.


Photo(s) by Courtesy of Old Town Playhouse