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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Actress takes on challenge of playing Patsy Cline

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Zenia Zambrano plays country singer Patsy Cline in Manoa Valley Theatre's "A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline," which is playing through Sept. 22.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

'A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline'

7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday; repeats Wednesdays through Sundays through Sept. 22

Manoa Valley Theatre



At 29, Zenia Zambrano is far too young to know or remember Patsy Cline, the fabled country singer who died at age 30 in 1963, leaving behind a legacy of music that lives on today.

"I had heard about her, but it wasn't till I started to think of auditioning and buying and listening to her CDs, that I became enchanted by her story," said Zambrano, who portrays the title character in Manoa Valley Theatre's "A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline," opening tonight.

"She was very good."

Zambrano's playing a real-life person for the first time.

"I think it's a little more challenging," she said of the task. "I've read all her biographies, I've seen a few video biographies. You want to portray her like she was, not mess around with her image, and that's the hard part — with a fictional character, you can make up a lot of things. When it's real, you have to be careful."

Take the songs and the singing.

"I love 'Crazy,' because everybody knows it, too," said Zambrano. "If I sing it my own way, people will know it, so I have to hit all the dots. My favorite right now is 'Faded Love,' because on it, you can feel Patsy's pain."

As part of her Cline connection, Zambrano repeatedly played the classic music to soak up the essence of the singer. For inspiration, not impersonation. "I'm not trying to sound like her, but I'm trying to capture the little nuances, the breaks, the voice cracking. Things like that. I'm far from perfect, but I'm working on it."

She said that the Cline voice "was so unique. When you listen to her singing, you feel like she's feeling what she's talking about. You close your eyes, she's right there, telling a store, sharing much emotion. That's what I'm striving for — that connection."

The musical, by Dean Regan, tracks the life of Cline from 14 till her death. Hence, Zambrano has to play the figure at both spectrums of her age.

When she lassoed the role, she still had to get through a video audition, taping two songs performed in the Cline tradition, which was sent to the Patsy Cline Estate for final approval.

"I did 'Crazy,' " Zambrano said. "And a little faster tune, 'Blue Moon of Kentucky.' They go for the sound and the look. We're also taping the whole show for approval, so it's a little scary, but there's a lot at stake. I've never had to do this kind of audition before, but I guess it makes for a better play."

"It's so much fun ... like I'm doing a little concert every night."