The band June July is nearing the end of its Saturday night show at Lower 48. It's been a short but exhausting set of rootsy American rock, and then lead singer Heather Parrish reaches back for a piece of pure country: Patsy Cline's version of Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey?
The wailing rendition of the classic is a bridge to the next gig for Parrish and some members of her band.
The June 27 set was June July's last show before Parrish became Patsy Cline for a four-weekend production of Always ... Patsy Cline at Studio Players' Carriage House Theatre. Several members of the band, including guitarist and Parrish's fiancé Billy W.H. Mason, will join her for the show.
The Ted Swindley musical tells the story of the late country music legend, famous for the songs Crazy and Sweet Dreams, and her relationship with a Houston fan, played at Studio by Melissa Rae Wilkeson.
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Parrish has long wanted to play the Cline role, but it took a series of coincidences and a hurricane to bring her to this stage.
Lexington theatergoers last saw Parrish as Mary Magdalene in the Lexington Shakespeare Festival's 2004 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, singing a show- stopping rendition of I Don't Know How to Love Him. Before that, she was in Actors Guild of Lexington's 2002 production of A Taffeta Christmas, about a fictional girl group in the 1950s.
In that show, Parrish played the big-voiced, belting sister, and director Mike Thomas told Parrish there was some discussion of presenting Always ... Patsy Cline.
Parrish started reading up on Cline, preparing for the possibility of playing her, but AGL instead went with a Frank Sinatra show, My Way.
"That was fine," Parrish, 33, said, but "I kinda got it in the back of my head and in my heart that I wanted to do this show."
In the ensuing years, after again collaborating with Thomas on Superstar, Parrish moved to Texas to pursue a music career.
A musical career wasn't something she had really considered before.
Growing up in Central Kentucky, the Jessamine County High School graduate was in chorus, but she had never touched theater.
Parrish was a manager at The Body Shop at Fayette Mall, and the owner of the company, Anita Roddick, was in town. At a dinner, Parrish mentioned to Roddick that she sang.
"She was very flamboyant, and she stood up and said, 'Well sing!'" Parrish said.
So she did, regaling Roddick and the crowd with I Will Always Love You, Black Velvet and Summertime.
Then-Lexington actor Tom Phillips was there, heard Parrish, and asked whether she had done any theater.
"We became fast friends, and he introduced me to the Actors Guild people," Parrish said, and subsequently she met former Actors Guild directors Deb Shoss and Kevin Hardesty, and Thomas, the Taffeta director.
"If I had not met those people, I never would have known my love for theater," Parrish said.
But she also discovered a love of fronting a band, and that desire led her to Galveston, Texas.
"I moved there to follow my dreams of music and met Billy Mason, and we began writing songs," Parrish said.
Things were going well, but nature intervened last summer, when Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston and "blew us back to Kentucky. It forced us to consider whether to rebuild our lives there or come back, closer to our families."
Not long after returning to Lexington, Parrish got a Facebook message from director Tonda-Leah Fields inviting her to audition for Studio Players' production of Always ... Patsy Cline.
"I've become pretty close to Patsy, about as close as you could come to someone who has passed on," Parrish said of her research for the role. "I had a talk with Patsy, and I don't want to imitate her. I want to emulate her and more than anything else, convey her heart and the feeling that she sang with.
"There are not many female singers I know of who sing with their whole selves, where every bit of them connects with the song. She was able to connect with the songwriter and connect with the moment he or she was in when writing it.
"She was doing it because she loved it, and there was no other reason to do it because it was a hard, hard life. I can relate to that."
And Parrish now relates that to her own singing career.
"The band and the musical are finding their ways toward one another," Parrish said. "Patsy Cline and acting in that role are helping my performance with my band, because I find that a lot of the ways she connected with her audience I'm starting to connect with my audience in the same way."