Barnett, a Tennessee native, has been portraying Patsy Cline since she was a teenager in the critically acclaimed biographical musical Always...Patsy Cline and has garnered shining reviews for her spot-on command of the role. How shining? Well, to the point where the Tennessean actually noted "If you closed your eyes, Patsy Cline was there in the room with you." Her extraordinary talent in the production led to a record deal under her own name, several albums, regular tours, and a host of soundtrack work.
Barnett reprised her role as Cline when the musical returned to Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium--the same stage where Cline made a name for herself so many years ago--in 2009. The production skipped a year due to the devastating floods that ravaged Nashville in May of 2010.
However--much to Barnett's (and Cline's) fans' delight, the show is back! Always...Patsy Cline opens up at the Ryman this Friday, and will run Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through July 24.
Barnett has also just released Sweet Dreams, her own personal take on a collection of Cline's best-loved hits, which can be purchased at the Ryman's gift shop.
I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Barnett--who is as charming and warm as her musical style--about her most famous role, and how it has affected her personally as a unique artist in her own right.
Our Country: The production of Always...Patsy Cline was postponed due to the floods last year, so it must feel extra special for you to return to the role this summer.
Mandy Barnett: Absolutely! It was just such a shock when the flood hit. It hit in May, and we were getting ready to start in June. We're just glad that everything is fine. The Opry's fine; the Ryman, of course. As far as our production goes, the set was destroyed--but you know, you can always replace those things. I think we'll come back stronger than ever.
OC: You have been playing the role of Cline since you were very young. How did you prepare for the part in the beginning? It seems a monumental personality for such a young actor to take on.
MB: It was, but it was sprung on me so quickly...basically I got the role and a month later I was doing the show. So, I had this book called Honky Tonk Angel by Ellis Nassour--it was a book I'd had since I was a kid. I re-read that, and listened to the music. At the time the internet wasn't up and running and widely available, so my resources were pretty limited. I just kind of had to go by my gut--how I thought Patsy would be, and how she would act.
OC: Critical acclaim for your performance as Cline is absolutely glowing. Reviewers are writing things like "Sends chills up the spine"...and that it's like actually having Cline back, alive, in person.
MB: Well, we definitely try to give them a good experience, and make them feel like they're seeing her in concert.
OC: Are you interested in pursuing other roles in musical theater?
MB: It depends on the role and what it is. My first love is performing in concert, but I'd definitely be open to a lot of different things.
OC: Let's talk about your new record, Sweet Dreams. Covering the catalog of such a legendary artist must come with a unique set of challenges. How did you manage to be creative with this record, while still respecting Cline's legacy?
MB: Well, you know--I honestly think since I've done the role for so long...The older I've gotten, the more I've been able to separate between me and Patsy. It's a way to pay homage to her legacy and her music, but it also brings something a little different to the table. Doing the songs the same way for so long for the show--it was a really fun and freeing process to think about them a little differently. We didn't go drastic and try to reinvent the wheel, but we did take some liberties and do some of the songs differently.
OC: Do you have a favorite Patsy Cline song, or is it too hard to choose just one?
MB: I do love "Faded Love"; it was one of the last songs she ever recorded, and it just sounds very heartfelt. Just a lot of raw emotion.
If you're in Nashville over the next few weeks, be sure to check out Barnett at the Ryman--I hope I've convinced you it's going to be a great show!
As always, be sure to: