Monday, February 27, 2012

"Always...Patsy Cline" brings a leading lady back to Midland after nearly 20 years

by Janet I. Martineau
From 1978 to 1993, she was one of the leading ladies on the Midland Center for the Arts stages.
Now, after a nearly 20-year absence, Sally Goggin is making the 90-minute  trip from her home in Cadillac to rehearse and perform in “Always....Patsy Cline,” opening Friday, March 9.
“I think this is my favorite role of all the ones I have done,” Goggin says of the two-woman play about the late country singer and her pen pal Louise Seger. “But, then, that may be my memory at work since it is the most recent.”
Sally Goggin, front, and Joanie Stanley rehearse "Always... Patsy Cline"
Her Midland credits: In 1978 Goggin played  Eliza Doolittle In “My Fair Lady,” in 1979 Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl,” in 1981 Aldonza in “Man of  La Mancha” and Kate in “Taming of the Shrew,” in 1982 Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and Ophelia in “Hamlet,”  and in 1984 Maggie in “A Chorus Line.”
Another biggie to remember is  “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” -- with Goggin as the narrator and  then-teenager Brian d’Arcy James in the title role. James, a Saginaw native, is now a two-time Tony nominee and is in the cast of NBC’s new “Smash.”

“That was in 1985, and my daughter Sarah, who was 5, had a mad crush on him. He came to her birthday party and gave her a bottle of perfume -- which she never used and kept on display. She came to the rehearsals and just stared at him.”
And who can forget the wild ride of Midland’s 1988 production of “Nunsense” -- the international hit written by Alma native Dan Goggin, the cousin of Sally’s husband Pat Goggin. Sally played Sister Robert Anne in the musical about disorderly nuns.
A year after the 1988 production at the Midland Center for the Arts it entered and won state and regional community theater competitions and placed fourth at the nationals; in 1990 was invited to perform in Saskatchewan  and in 1991 was produced at Alma College.
“I think it was in 1993 we did the full show again in Midland... and then in 1996 we took it to Athens, Ga., where one of our tech people had moved. Same cast all the way through.”
By then Sally and her husband had moved to Cadillac, when he was downsized from Dow. They settled into a family cottage owned since the 1940s and started a furniture/art/interior decoration store which they operated for 10 years.
She now works as an interior designer at VanDrie Home Furnishings and directs murder mystery dinner theater shows in a car dealership showroom. “They move the cars out and the tables in.”
Husband Pat is the executive director of United Way in that area. And as a footnote to the “Nunsense” family legacy, daughter Trish Goggin  recently played Sister Mary Leo in a “Nunsense” production up in Calumet, where she was attending college. 
Which brings us to “Always...Patsy Cline.” Why, Sally Goggin,  come back to the Midland Center for the Arts, and that long commute, after all these years?
"Patsy Cline" director Susie Polito with Goggin
Well, after raising her children and selling the store in Cadillac, Goggin began dabbling in acting again --  primarily at the Old Town Playhouse in Traverse City, which is only 50 miles from home.
“I’ve been in four shows there -- “‘Mame,’ a role I alway wanted to play, was one; ‘Into the Woods’ the fall of 2009, ‘Always Patsy Cline,” with Joanie Stanley (of Acme)  in the title role. 

"Joanie had never sung country music, had only acted in high school, but I convinced her to try out because she is a marvelous singer. 
“She listened to several Patsy Cline CDs and just nailed it, the nuances and style,  in the auditions.”
So when Sally heard Midland had scheduled it, she placed a call to the director -- Susie Polito, one of her cast mates in that “Nunsense” saga -- and wondered if she and Joanie  could audition for her production of it.
Says Polito, “I was down to three women (as Patsy)  in the auditions....I turned my back on them and asked each sing a Cline song. So I could just hear and not see. Well, Joanie made me cry. That was it.”
Goggin says “Always” is like “Nunsense” in that wherever it plays it tends to sell out. “Of course part of it is the name Patsy Cline and that it features 28 of her songs. But it goes beyond that. In Traverse City we had people come to it two or three times.”
She tells the story of how her husband read the script and wrinkled his nose, only to become hooked once seeing it on stage. She recalls, in the first show at Traverse City, how “the show started with Joanie singing three Patsy songs, then I came out and started talking, and I could see people in the first row cross their arms and recoil in disgust.”
But soon, she says, “I could tell we had them”  -- this true story of Cline the superstar singer and Seger the die-hard Texas fan, the two of them meeting in a honky tonk and becoming close friends via telephone calls and letters. A mix, she says, of comedy, music and conversation with a country music band on stage as well.
Joanie Stanley as Patsy Cline
“The script is based on their letters and Louise’s memory of what happened when they talked on the phone and when they met at the honky tonk. It is written with a great sense of humor; you can just feel the affection Louise had for Patsy. She called her the sister she never had.”
Goggin says she read as much as she could about the real-life Louise Seger “but then I created my own person. Apparently the playwright (Ted Swindley) took  liberty with the truth. Louise was, so people say, an elegant woman -- not  the outgoing funny character in the script. Louise went to see the show and was not happy.”
What kinda spooks Goggin, however, is the fact that in Traverse City...and Midland is reporting it too....people call to order tickets to “the Patsy Cline concert” and are reminded this is a musical, a play, pretend.
“These people, and I am telling you the truth, think she is still alive and are outraged we have not booked HER.”
Cline died on March 5, 1963, in an airplane crash, at age 30 -- a mere two years after she and Louise met. Louise died in 2004.
And Goggin also tells the story that six months after the production in Traverse City, a woman came into the Cadillac store where she works, demanded to see her and said “I just loved you in the show and I live in Texas most of the year. I just know we can become friends and we need to go to lunch.”
She thought Goggin WAS Louise Seger. Goggin gently broke the news she was just acting the role, “and then the woman said, ‘You don’t even have an accent.’
“I think this is part of the reason I say it may be my favorite role. People just buy into this wonderful story of friendship and I wanted to do it again because the audience seems to have such a good time.
“And since so few people have really seen the show, they have no picture in their mind of my character. It can be anything I want it to be because Louise is bigger than life.”
Performances in Midland are 8 p.m. March  9-10, 15-17 and 3 p.m. March 11 and 18. Tickets are $22 adults and $16 students. To buy, call  800-523-8250 or go on line at

To “meet” the real Louise Seger and see pictures of her:

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