On the Scene: Scruggs always true to Patsy Cline

PATSY, WELCOME BACK: When Shannon Willis Scruggs was first cast as Patsy Cline in a Town Theatre production of "Always...Patsy Cline," her father gave her a Cline box set.

"She's got some many special nuances to her voice," Scruggs said.

Cline was able to convey myriad emotions with her voice that was strong, true.

"It felt like I was living this country superstar dream," Scruggs said of the role she first portrayed in 2000. "She was such an icon and continues to be many years after her death."

The latest production opens tonight at Town Theatre. Scruggs doesn't do a lot of dancing or moving around on stage because Cline wasn't like today's female country stars such Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, singers who make the most of a stage's real estate.

"When she performed live, she didn't do a lot of moving around," Scruggs said of Cline. "You can tell she was really into it."

And she was singing live.

Scruggs does so as well. She also stays true to Cline's songs, including the guttural tones and, yes, even the occasional yodel.

"I didn't think this was a place for reinterpretation," Scruggs said. "People that are coming to see it are fans of Patsy Cline and want that memory. And if they don't know her, we're introducing her to them.

"It's our job to stay true to Patsy Cline."

"Always...Patsy Cline" has a small cast. Kathy Hartzog, who performs as Louise, the show's narrator, handles the bulk of the dialogue, and The Bodacious Bobcats will be the live backing band on the stage.

"And that speaks to me because the music is there throughout, even though Patsy has been gone," Scruggs said. "I love doing this show."

Showtimes: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 28. The play runs through March 6. Town Theatre is at 1012 Sumter St. $12 to $20; (803) 799-2510

WINTER FELLOWSHIP: Jeff Frankenstein wants you to get there early.

The keyboardist for Newsboys, one of the bands playing at Winter Jam tonight at the Colonial Life Arena, said some people have been turned away from the concert featuring Christian contemporary bands.

"Ticket wise, it's cheaper than a movie ticket," Frankenstein said of the $10 seats which can't be purchased in advance. "In a couple of cities, they turned away 3,000 to 5,000 people. It's a great problem to have, but I'd advise you to come early."

Also performing: Third Day, NewSong, Tenth Avenue North, Fireflight and speaker Tony Nolan.

The country - and, really, the world - is in turmoil, facing uncertain financial, social and political times. Tours like Winter Jam, with its focus on worshipping, appear to be more relevant.

And that's not just because of the ticket price.

Frankenstein said the beauty of Christian music is that it's the opposite of the "realities" of the me-me-me popular culture.

"It's not about me. It's not about us. It's about the gospel, what we sing about," he said of the music. "At a show like this, you can take from it and apply it to your life and the principles last forever.

"That's how the world becomes a better place by serving. Be what we say we are as Christians. It's about core things that we believe is the truth."

Frankenstein has had a clearer path to walk then most. At age 4, he dreamed he'd be playing keyboard in a band. In 1993, while he was in college, a friend talked him into being a runner for a band - Newsboys - for a day. Frankenstein drove the band around in his mom's Astro van. When Newsboys needed a touring keyboardist, they called him.

"God kind of plucked me out of where I was and put me where I am," Frankenstein said.

Now he's in a position to offer guidance to others, especially those who don't have such a clear path.

"I think God speaks in a lot of different ways," Frankenstein said. "Just be open to anything. When God comes in, he's probably going to shake things up. It might not feel good.

"It's about control. Do you really believe God is who he says he is? Are you willing to give up everything for him? Those are the questions we have to ask ourselves."

Aren't we all asking a lot of questions these days?

Winter Jam starts at 7 p.m. The arena is at 801 Lincoln St. $10; (877) 489-2849

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