From her first performances at the Port Alberni Salmon Festival karaoke contest in her youth to standing ovations at the Capitol Theatre last weekend, Kerri Shannon has no trouble showing her passion on stage.
When she showed up at the audition for the Portal Players Dramatic Society’s rendition of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline in the early spring, she came to nail the role.
“Her audition was fantastic,” said Peter Wienold, PPDS vice-president. “She had the outfit and her hair made up. She was hungry for it and wanted it very badly. As soon as she sang the first notes, it was very quickly apparent that she would be a great fit. She was definitely the one who took the cake.”
“I’ve always been a softy for vintage so I dressed the part,” Shannon said. “When I found out I got it, I couldn’t believe it. I was blown away.”
Shannon grew up in Beaver Creek and has not only country values, but the music in her soul. Growing up, there was always music in her family’s home, and the fourth-generation Port Alberni resident credits that to her love of music.
“The first CD my parents bought together was Patsy Cline,” she said. “We have a musical family and there was every-thing from Linda Ronstadt to Led Zeppelin playing.”
She developed her own style by mimicking artists, and was influenced by many, including Fleetwood Mac, Motown and 1950s doo wop.
Although Shannon was enrolled in piano lessons from the age of five, she has no formal vocal training other than a six-month stint in a jazz vocal group at university. She was once a runner-up for best female vocalist at the International Jazz Festival, but then took a hiatus.
“I love singing and wanted to put music back in my life,” she said.
At Alberni District Secondary School, Shannon’s on-stage experience included performances in Oklahoma and Footloose. It was a high school friend who encouraged her to audition for Patsy Cline.
“I give a lot of credit to Greg and Sarah Falls, who gave me direction and training in the jazz group and gave me a start on stage,” she said.
To get into character, Shannon said she studied Cline’s personality.
“I watched old videos and her documentary,” Shannon said. “Reading about her I learned she went to the beat of her own drum. She was outspoken and I think that is something to be proud of, especially in that day and age.”
Shannon said dressing the part also helps, but tries to find a happy medium with her own style.
“It’s easy to get into it when I get the fake eyelashes, my hair teased and put on the outfits,” she said.
“I get a southern drawl but I still see parts of me coming through. I try to envision what she would be like and it’s easy to be sassy, flirty and fun on stage. When we have a great audience, it makes it easier. It makes me smile and wink at them.”
The role also allows Shannon to give the audience a taste of the variety for which Cline was known.
“You knew what she was feeling when she sang,” Shannon said. “She was able to pull emotions out of people when she sang. This is a good opportunity for me to be able to do that. (The show) brings people back to a different time.”
“(Last weekend’s) shows couldn’t have gone better,” Wienold said. “We had two standing ovations on Saturday night. We were thrilled with the audiences.”
Although she works full-time as a phlebotomist, Shannon also sings back-up for a Pink Floyd tribute band and is unsure at this point where she will go with her music career.
“If anything, I’m going to stick with music,” she said. “It is a part of my soul. If people enjoy it, it’s even better and that’s all you can ask for. Of course, every kid dreams of being a rock star.”
Shannon, as well as the entire cast, can be seen in A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline at the Capitol Theatre on Nov. 13, 14, 20 and 21. An extra evening show has been added on Wednesday, Nov. 18 due to popular demand, and tickets may still be available for the two Sunday matinees: Nov. 15 and 22.