When they started performing "Always ... Patsy Cline" nearly 10
years ago, the Comfort Theatre members said they would keep doing it
until it wasn't fun anymore.
But that never happened.
Even at its peak of two shows a month, touring South Dakota and
surrounding states, the Sioux Falls-based troupe - founded by Kaija
and Brian Bonde - says performing "Always" still is fun.
They had cut back in recent years, but still feature Kaija Bonde as
Patsy, singing "Crazy," "Sweet Dreams," "Walkin' After Midnight" and
other hits by the legendary country singer who died at age 30 in a
1963 plane crash.
Jill Johnson plays Louise Seger, the real-life fan who befriended
Cline in l961 and kept in touch until her death.
"Kaija and I always clicked," Johnson says. "It wasn't even so
much about the show, we just liked to get together. We still enjoy
laughing and joking during 'girl time' before and after the shows."
Soon, that "girl time" preceding shows will end. The Comfort Theatre
will stage its final "Always" performances March 23-24 at the
Orpheum Theater, and April 28 in Deadwood.
The company members need more time for family, and have a couple of
other shows they perform in the region, says Brian Bonde, director
This past Monday Johnson and the Bondes were digging through
old playbills, photographs and gifts from fans, laughing about small
sets, schools and even cafes where they have performed.
The decade-long run started when they saw a performance of the show,
written by Ted Swindley, in Chicago.
"So then we contacted the author and promoter in 1997 and
became one of the first small theaters to do it," Brian Bonde says.
"We were looking for something, always talked about doing a Patsy
Cline show because Kaija's voice was so right for it."
In their first year, a tornado damaged the barn they were to perform
in. They did the show anyway, with rain leaking onto their set.
Dozens of more shows followed as word of mouth made the show a hot
"We always planned to tour it, but we thought we would tour
for a year or two," Kaija Bonde says. The show gained momentum, with
e-mail, fax, phone and written requests pouring in. They had to
begin turning down requests to perform.
"It's fabulous, and I think its been a treasure for Kaija, a perfect
fit for her artistic abilities and a perfect fit for this region,"
says Janet Brown, a fan and chairwoman of the Augustana College
Performing and Visual Arts Department.
"Yes, I am sad they're stopping the run, but I understand that
artists need to move on."
Boyd Bristow, the show's music director, says he feels
nostalgic as the troupe wraps up.
"I saw the main show in Nashville once, with a different
take," Bristow says. "The 'Louise' character was played almost
scary, and 'Patsy' would freeze like a statue, like a ghost in
parts. I like our show better."
Reach reporter Jay Kirschenmann at 331-2312,or e-mail email@example.com.