Bucks County native Jenny Lee Stern is returning to the Walnut to reprise her role as Patsy Cline. The Broadway veteran says she’s found her niche playing the legendary singer. The musical, which follows the unlikely friendship between Cline and Louise Seger, includes 27 of Cline’s best- known classics. Stern talks about why she keeps coming back – both to the role and to the Walnut.
Debra Danese: What keeps you coming back to this particular show and role?
Jenny Lee Stern: Well, my general rule in life is pretty much, “feel good and have fun,” and everything else will fall into place. Patsy feels good to me. In my voice, in my body, in my heart, and in my soul. And it’s THE MOST FUN. I love Patsy’s dynamic with Louise, of course, but being able to interact with the band is an extra special treat. Also, combining concert performance moments with real, true pops of genuine, dramatic theatre…nothing could be better. Not to mention the stunning costumes!
DD: How do you approach portraying a role you are reprising compared to one you are preparing for the first time?
JLS: I never ever stop learning, researching or listening. I’m always looking to elevate my portrayal of Patsy each time I return to the role. Now that the lyric-learning portion of the preparation is a non-issue, it allows me to really dive deeper and deeper. This time around, I am in a very different place in my personal life than I have been in the past. I am really in an emotional space where I feel I am receiving love and giving love, and experiencing true joy. Singing these lyrics that hold so much weight of heartbreak and sadness, while feeling a constant underlying emotion of happiness and stability, is completely different for me. It is adding quite a beautiful layer to my storytelling.
DD: Which of Patsy Cline’s songs do you best relate to?
JLS: Oh, my goodness! Too many! I have three ex-husbands so, unfortunately, I can directly relate to so much Patsy is singing about, haha. That being said, I truly do get ‘all the feels’ singing “I Fall to Pieces” and “Closer Walk with Thee.” Especially the latter – goosebumps every time. My relationship with God is so incredibly important to me, and to sing that hymn, alone on stage, is precious.
DD: What interesting fact did you learn about Patsy’s friendship with Louise Seger when researching for the part?
JLS: Well, let me comment on my most favorite trait of Louise: I love a ballsy broad. But I especially love a ballsy broad with a good, kind, pure heart. And I believe that’s exactly who Louise is. Not many people would have the guts to just walk up to their all-time favorite celebrity and strike up a conversation. And not many celebrities would trust a fan who did so enough to not only socialize in their home but continue a friendship for years and years. It takes a pretty incredible person (Louise) to make that happen.
DD: As a veteran of the Walnut, what do you love most about backstage life there?
JLS: I love working at the Walnut and am so very happy to be back. When I walked in for my costume fitting last week, I was overcome with so much emotion just walking into the building. It’s an iconic space, and has top-notch management and world class production value. From top to bottom you just come across the most beautiful, warm, professional people. From maintenance, to front of house, to crew, to creatives, to the box office staff – I value each and every soul in that building and never take for granted their contribution to the magic we are able to create at every performance. I am so grateful for this opportunity to bring Patsy Cline to the Mainstage and I look forward to gracing these boards many more times in the years to come. I am so proud to be a member of the Walnut Family.
Always…Patsy Cline begins previews April 12th, opens April 20th, and continues through May 15th on the Walnut Mainstage. https://www.walnutstreettheatre.org/