Few singers are better remembered than Patsy Cline.
So taking on the role of the iconic performer is a daunting one.
But Devra Straker, originally from Saltcoats, took the role in stride with her recent performance in ‘A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline’ at the Globe Theatre in Regina.
Playing Cline is something Straker said she was immediately drawn to tackling as a performer.
“I’m a huge fan,” she said, adding “she (Cline) was one of the first women to break through in an industry that was very, very male dominated.”
Cline was also able to create songs which bridged genres, taking country to a broader audience, said Straker,
But being a fan was far from enough to get the part.
Straker said “for being allowed the gift” of Cline’s song she not only had to gain the approval of the show’s producers, but also the Patsy Cline Estate in the United States. That meant recording songs and doing a video to submit for them to listen to and look at.
Straker said she respects that the Estate holds onto such high standards to honour Cline’s legacy.
“Doing her justice is a huge responsibility because the woman had a range that was absolutely insane,” said Straker.
So among Cline’s catalogue of well-known songs, which ones pushed Straker the hardest to get right?
“Faded Love made you pull it out for sure,” she said.
“Love Sick Blues, you end on a note above the rainbow.”
Straker has actually performed the role on three occasions, once in Calgary, then back in Ontario, with her recent run at the Globe Theatre in Regina her third. It is a role she is not just comfortable with, but one that is her favourite.
“I’ve had some other wonderful shows but there’s just something special about playing her, and singing her music,” she said. “… She inspired me humbled me as an artist.”
Having performed the role before gave Straker added confidence heading into the Globe run, but she added there is pressure with every production.
“I expect a lot. I expect myself to do a good job,” she said, adding the Regina run brought a new card into play for her, it being her first role since the birth of her first child Lillianna 11-months ago. She said it took some additional work to balance performance with motherhood.
The experience of two previous runs also gave Straker more of a voice in terms of the stage show. She said producer Jeffrey Whynott “was very open to working together.”
In time Straker said she hopes to work in the wings, but added “at this point I can’t quite imagine giving up performing.”
Among the three productions Straker said Regina was special in terms of being close to her hometown.
“There wasn’t a single performance I didn’t have somebody from Yorkton, or Saltcoats in the audience,” she said, adding she could feel them “giving their love and support.”
The Regina run was only a couple of weeks, and Straker said she would have loved it to be longer.
“I think we all felt like it was too-short,” she said, adding the Globe production played to full houses and good reviews, not that was a surprise.
“Every place I’ve done it it’s been a huge success,” he said, adding the amazing thing is the audience would have 10-year olds and seniors and everyone in between. “It speaks to the power of her music,” she said.
Straker does realize the audience is there for Cline, and not for her, and she is fine with that.
“It’s not about me at all. It’s about her life, her story, her music,” she said, adding she had no expectations of anyone remembering her name, but hoped they always remembered the show.
The Regina performance was a chance for Straker ‘to come home’ in a sense as she now resides in Ontario.
“Family took me down there and music keeps bringing me back,” she said, adding she left Saltcoats for good in 1998, after completing high school in Yorkton, ready to pursue music, adding she knew in high school music was her calling.
“I met some resistance from family who thought it wasn’t a good way to make a living -- a good hobby, but not a living,” she said, but she knew it was what she wanted to do. “You can’t deny what you are, where your heart is, where your passion lies.”
Straker said pursuing music hasn’t always been easy, but she has made it work.
“You have to want it so bad,” she said, adding every audition is a challenge to overcome.
“You’re one of 300 girls that will walk into a room for a role so you’ve got a lot to prove,” she said, adding if you don’t get the part “You’ve just got to keep going.”
And Straker has kept going carving out her career.
“It’s been my career professionally for almost 15-years,” she said.
Straker’s next show will be in Hamilton at Theatre Aquarius, where she will perform in a rock music production.
In the next show Straker will have to put on her dancing shoes, as the production has dance numbers. Being a stage performer she is called on to sing, dance and act.
So how does Straker see herself?
“I would say singer first, absolutely,” she said.
While Straker’s career has focused on stage singing the works of others, she wants to perform her own material too, and is working toward that goal.
“It’s in the works right now,” she said of a debut CD. “I hope to have it recorded for next summer.”
Asked what style of music she is choosing as her own, Straker said she is likely to offer something a bit eclectic.
“It’s going to be a mix,” she said, adding that just reflects her own tastes. “I listen to everything.”
Straker said while she is a huge fan of classic country such as Cline and Tammy Wynette, she is just as likely to be listening to Nora Jones. She said she can listen to good music across the spectrum, adding when it’s good “it’s still music that touches your soul.”
Asked if the new CD would mean a launch in Saltcoats she smiled and said she hadn’t thought about that, but liked the idea.