Conway Twitty Comes Alive in New Musical
Conway Twitty fans are being treated to a journey through the late country legend's personal and career highlights. 'Conway Twitty: The Man, The Music, The Legend,' a musical based on Twitty's life, premiered in Nashville last weekend. It features more than 30 songs and narrative by actresses portraying Conway's daughters, Joni and Kathy Twitty. The girls, portrayed by Tiffany Leigh Baldwin and Amber Hayes, tell stories both funny and heartwarming about their dad, recalling the time he painted lemons on a brand new car because the dealership wouldn't make the necessary repairs to it. They also remember stories from the road, their brief move to California while Conway pursued acting, and touching family moments of Conway as a father and husband.
While the stories are interesting, it is the music that brought the most response from the audience at the premiere. Impressive lead actor Glen Templeton has the voice and Twitty's mannerisms down. The Alabama native, who says he is a huge fan of the singer he portrays, admits that he studied videos of Conway performing and listened to endless hours of the singer's recordings to ensure that he could play the part.
Emily Portman also does a commendable job as Twitty's singing partner and friend Loretta Lynn, right down to her Kentucky twang, singing the word "hurricane" in 'Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.'
Twitty sold 16 million records as a rock star before he turned to his first love, country music. As his daughters explain during the production, "He thought he couldn't be a country singer because he had so many heroes in country music, but after he heard Elvis Presley he knew he could compete in rock 'n roll."
Once Ray Price recorded a song Conway wrote, Twitty decided it was time to move his career into the country realm. The girls recall him walking offstage in the middle of a rock concert in New Jersey after his manager told him he couldn't do country music and never looking back. His first country single was 'Next in Line,' but it wasn't until he released 'Hello Darlin'' in 1969 that his country career took off.
Templeton sings hit after hit throughout the 90-minute musical, including 'Linda On My Mind,' 'You've Never Been This Far Before,' 'It's Only Make Believe,' 'Goodbye Time,' 'Slow Hand' and 'Don't Take It Away.' He and Portman relive the duets time period with tunes including 'After The Fire Is Gone,' 'Lead Me On,' 'Feelings' and 'What Your Love Does To Me.'
Many of Conway 's friends attended the premiere. Sam Moore, who was the last person to record with Conway, was celebrating his birthday as well as the musical's opening night.
"There is only one Conway Twitty, one George Jones, one Loretta Lynn, one Waylon Jennings," Moore told The Boot. "So to be here and see this tonight was a real honor."
Singer/songwriter Bill Anderson had the honor of having one of his songs, 'I May Never Get To Heaven,' recorded by Twitty.
"Conway was a dear friend," said Anderson. "He and I toured together and were also business partners ... He is the one person I knew who never lost touch with who his fans were and who he was. His legacy speaks for itself."
Daughters Joni and Kathy and son Jimmy Twittywere also in attendance Sunday night and are the forces behind the production. Their goal, according to Joni, is to reflect on Conway as a family man and revive his musical legacy.
"We hope to take Daddy out of the courtroom and back into the spotlight where he belongs," she said, referring to the long-running court battle that waged over the singer's estate and their ability to use his name and images associated with his career.
Kathy said the fans will learn about Conway the man with rare glimpses into his family life and what he was like outside of his career. Indeed, the fans in attendance Sunday night shouted and cheered as Templeton launched into each song, showing that their love and appreciation for Conway and his music has not faded since his death 15 years ago.
'Conway Twitty: The Man, The Music, The Legend,' will open in Branson, Missouri on October 22 for four dates, then head out on a string of shows across the U.S. and into Canada. For a listing of cites where the production is booked, visit www.conwaytwittymusical.com.