A terrific two-hander

You’d have to be crazy not to see this show

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Norrell Moore as Patsy Cline in the BDT Stage production of "Always... Patsy Cline."
Glenn Ross Photography

Ensemble pieces and one-man (or woman) shows are a dime a dozen. Two-person plays — also known as “two-handers” — are a much rarer bird. Two-woman two-handers qualify for the endangered species list. A really boffo two-woman two-hander comes along about as often as a unicorn or an honest politician. How lucky, then, would a person have to be to catch a terrific performance of a tremendous, two-woman two-hander… let alone one in which both roles were played by the understudies rather than the leads?

I’m not sure what arcane branch of mathematics might suitably quantify that level of preternatural good fortune, but all integers, fractions and related alchemy aside, I know good luck when it’s abroad, and I damn sure bought a lottery ticket on the way home from seeing Always… Patsy Cline at Boulder’s own BDT Stage this past weekend. And I’m not even the luckiest buck in this story. That honor goes to BDT Stage’s Producing Artistic Director, Michael J. Duran. 

Before taking over as the leader of BDT Stage (then known as Boulder’s Dinner Theatre), Duran enjoyed success on Broadway and in national and international touring companies where he worked alongside all-time greats like Jerry Lewis, Tommy Tune and Carol Channing. Duran has won multiple Best Director and Best Choreographer awards, including a Henry, an Ovation and a Denver Drama Critics Circle (DDCC). And now — thanks to his aforementioned good luck as well as loads of hard work — Duran’s pool of BDT Stage actors is so Marianas deep that his backups are every bit as accomplished as his first-stringers! 

BDT Stage’s stable is unusually stable. I’ve had the pleasure of watching many of the actors there for more than 15 years. A boon to Boulder audiences, the surprisingly stable stable is also stupendously strong. These performers do it all, and they do it all well. They sing, they dance, they act and they wait tables to boot. Which is why I didn’t bat an eye when I learned that I was getting understudies rather than leads for my night with dear friends Patsy Cline and Louise Seger.

On the off chance that you’re unaware, Patsy Cline is one of the most widely and rightfully celebrated crossover singers in American history.  She succeeded in bridging the gap between country and pop music back in the 1950s and ’60s when such a thing was unheard of. Her versions of “Crazy,” “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces” are indelibly imprinted on the collective musical consciousness. Always… Patsy Cline tells Patsy’s big story through the comparatively small lens of her unexpected friendship with one of her biggest fans, Louise Seger. 

In 1961, Louise attended a Patsy Cline concert in Houston, Texas. Louise was so excited to finally see one of her favorite artists in person that she showed up nearly two hours early to the nearly empty venue. Patsy, traveling alone, arrived shortly thereafter, and the two struck up a conversation. With similar backgrounds and life experiences, they bonded quickly. After the show, Patsy ended up staying the night at Louise’s house rather than make the long drive back to her hotel. In the time before cell phones and emails, the two began exchanging letters, letters Patsy invariably signed, “Love Always… Patsy Cline.” Patsy and Louise remained best friends until Patsy’s untimely death in a plane crash in 1963.

Always… Patsy Cline tells that simple story in a very folksy, guileless way that’s cornstalk-high with good humor. That it also evokes such strong emotions attests to the depth of the real-life relationship at its core as much as to Ted Swindley’s writing or even BDT Stage’s presentation. 

Speaking of which, you’ll likely be treated to Norrell Moore as Patsy and Alicia K. Meyers as Louise. Meyers is one of my all-time favorite BDT Stagers; she’s been making magic as part of both cast and crew for many years. I’ve never seen Moore’s work, but if BDT Stage cast her as Patsy, I’m certain a great Patsy she is. My Patsy, however, was Joanie Brosseau-Rubald, and my Louise was Cindy Lawrence. Both are BDT Stage veterans, and both have delighted me over the years. Brosseau-Rubald sang the absolute dickens out of the more than 20 Patsy classics that fill the show, and she dialed back her naturally buoyant energy just enough to match Patsy’s less demonstrative demeanor. Lawrence, in turn, amped up her delivery to make Louise a sassy, self-assured joy to watch.

If you don’t go see Always… Patsy Cline, you’ll always regret it.

On the Bill:
Always… Patsy Cline. BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, www.bdtstage.com, $43 and up. Through May 20.