By Tom Haraldsen
Iron County Today
Erica Hansen’s mother realized her daughter could sing almost before she learned to talk. And once Erica started school, it was her kindergarten teacher who finally pulled her mother aside and said, “She’s a little songbird. You need to get her into singing.”
It was an easy thing for her Mom to do. Erica’s love of music, particularly singing and performing, has guided a career that has brought her back to a role she’s loved for 13 years.
Salt Lake Community College’s Grand Theatre is hosting Erica in “Always… Patsy Cline.” The popular show opened on Aug. 24 and runs on various dates through Sept. 22 at the Grand, 1575 S. State Street, Salt Lake City.
Written by Ted Swindley, “Always… Patsy Cline” is a two-woman show based on the true story of Patsy Cline’s friendship with devoted fan and Houston housewife Louise Seger, played this year by Dawn Veree. Packed with 27 of Cline’s greatest hits, including “Crazy,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” and “Sweet Dreams,” fans will rediscover forgotten tunes and walk away humming new ones. Cline, who died in a 1963 plane crash at age 30, has been called one of the most influential, successful and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th Century.
Hansen was drawn to Patsy Cline after “rifling through my mother’s cassette tapes and pulling out one of Patsy’s. I would listen to it all the time in my car and began singing to it. I was completely moved by her voice—nobody was singing like Patsy in those days. She was such a no-nonsense, take no guff from anyone, do it her way type of personality. I loved that about her.”
Hansen has been a performer since her student days at Skyline High School. She has sung with the Utah Symphony Chorus and the University of Utah Chorale. She also worked as a radio personality for several years on three Salt Lake City radio stations, including hosting “Show Tunes Saturday Night” for seven years on the old KOSY 106.5 FM. She was theatre editor for the Deseret News as well.
Shortly after finishing the production of ‘1940s Radio Hour’ at The Grand in 2003, Hansen heard rumors that Richard Scott, the artistic director for the theatre, was mulling around the idea of staging “Always…Patsy Cline.”
“We discussed it a bit, but he wasn’t very forthcoming,” Hansen recalls with a smile. “I started working with a long-time friend, Victoria Mallory, on different materials and prepared to audition for Patsy. It was a long process, and from my first audition until the show opened, it was almost a year.”
Hansen’s portrayal of the country legend garnered critical acclaim as well as captured the hearts of Grand theatergoers time and again. The show, which Hansen has performed nine times since the first run in 2004, is very challenging. She sings 27 songs.
“But once I got the part, I’ve never experienced such excitement,” she says. “There’s no other show where you get that many solos.”
And despite all of those performances, she’s never grown tired of singing the songs that made Patsy Cline an icon.
“The audience gives you so much energy on those songs. You feel their excitement. I’m grateful every time I get to go out on stage and perform Patsy.”
This is the theatre’s most requested show. Tickets range in price from $14 to $23 and are available by calling 801-957-3322 or visiting grandtheatrecompany.com. Evening performances are held Thursdays through Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays.
The landmark Grand Theatre is a 1,100-seat venue located at Salt Lake Community College’s historic South City Campus, home of the innovative and state-of-the-industry Center for Arts and Media in Salt Lake City. The theatre dates back to the 1930s when it was part of South High School, which SLCC purchased in 1989, a year after the school closed.