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In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Kelley Faulkner played Sally Bowles for the Rep last season, and now she is starring as Patsy Cline for the company. (PHOTO: Mark Frohna)

The Rep's Kelley Faulkner becomes Patsy Cline

Jumping from Sally Bowles to Patsy Cline is a leap we would not expect from most actresses, but Kelley Faulkner says the distance between the two characters, one fictional and the other real, is not as great as we may think. She should know.

Faulkner blew the roof off of the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater last season playing Bowles in the Milwaukee Rep's landmark production of "Cabaret." She is now about to play Cline in the small musical "Always...Patsy Cline" the Rep opens Sunday in its Stackner Cabaret.

"Both roles are for a true alto," the actress says in explaining the vocal commonality in the two characters. But Cline and Bowles also share some personality traits, she adds.

"Patsy Cline was a sassy lady. She was known to be pretty bawdy. She had lots of lovers. She desperately wanted to be a star, wanted to be famous.

"There was a hard edge under her being sensitive and lovely." Sounds like a description of earthy and ambitious Sally Bowles.

"Always...Patsy Cline" is based on a real life friendship the country music star had with a fan, Louise Seger. The women met in 1961 and maintained a faithful correspondence until Cline died in a private plane crash two years later. The show's title is derived from the star's trademark signature in her letters to Seger.

Faulkner says her parents gave her some karaoke tapes while she was a child in Teaneck, New Jersey. "My favorite was the Patsy Cline tape. I loved Patsy when I was growing up.

"I love singing this music. It is such a treat." The actress croons more than 25 Cline numbers in the show.

Faulkner has been publicly singing since she was an 8-year-old member of the New York City Opera children's chorus. In that capacity she sang in a number of the company's full productions, including "Carmen" and "La Boheme."

The young performer had an agent and appeared in commercials and "industrials," the generic term for a range of non-commercial films and videos.

Straight out of high school Faulkner was cast in the second national touring company of the stage musical adaptation of "Big," the Tom Hanks hit movie. Not a success on Broadway, the show was rewritten for the road, where it prospered.

After delaying college for a while, Faulkner received an acting degree from Montclair (N.J.) State University and settled in Philadelphia, where she was cast mostly in musicals. Her resume there includes productions of "Les Miserables," "The Producers," "State Fair," "42nd Street" and "Oliver!" at the historic Walnut Street Theatre.

She moved to Milwaukee with her partner, Mark Clements, when he became the Rep's artistic director in 2010. Six months ago, Faulkner gave birth to their daughter, Amelie June.

"A Christmas Carol" audiences this past holiday season saw the New Jersey native's straight acting ability in her portrayals of Belle and Lucy.

Faulkner will be sharing the "Always...Patsy Cline" stage with Angela Iannone, who plays Louise Seger. Speaking of Iannone, she says, "I am so thrilled about that. Angela is a goddess in my eyes."


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