Music by Frank Wildhorn
Lyrics by Don Black
Book by Ivan
Direction & Musical Staging by Jeff Calhoun
Starring Laurie Osnes & Jeremy Jordan
Presented by Asolo Repertory Theatre
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts'
5555 N. Tamiami Tr., Sarasota, 941-351-8000, Nov. 12 to
Dec. 19, 2010
Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker
Described as a New Musical, "Bonnie &
Clyde" picks up La Jolla Playhouse's '09 world premiere story of bandit
lovers and infuses it with a socio-economic context for their aspirations and
actions. I suspect (since I didn't see the original) that it gains
not only more but most from Asolo Rep's typical extravagant production
Those I liked a lot. But I
found the play, except for its songs, wanting. Reportedly en route to Broadway,
it hasn't yet avoided potholes on its path.
With blazing shots in darkness from all sides, a central
wood-lathed panel, in a background of
the blasted dead (Laura Osnes and
Jeremy Jordan) in their auto. Surrounding slide and video projections give the
1934 date and ambiance. All lead to the flashback that's the show. Activity
takes place in and before the panels as well as on the full stage or aslant on
parts of it, aided by props and---as in a church, cell or
punctuated by song, begins in 1920, introducing the leads' families and their
plights. These, despite the background pics and newspaper items, don't come
over as horrific, nor for the Texas Baptist church goers shown praying for
better times. The Barrows make a lousy living from a gas station. The Parkers
had to move to a squatters' camp but Bonnie's widowed mother finally gets a
(presumably humble) home. Yet from their youth, Bonnie longed to become an
admired It Girl in a "Picture Show" like Clara Bow while Clyde wanted
to shoot guns, drive a fast car, and be a famous gangster like Billy the
When they meet as young
adults, Clyde explains "Everyone's got dreams. I got plans!"
"This World Will Remember Me"
if they get and act together. And, as everyone today knows, they do.
Bonnie never waivers from her love for Clyde and faith
that he'll get her to Hollywood. No suspense there. Mom Emma (Mimi Bessette)
can't warn her off him.
nice cop Ted (Kevin Massey) seems to be around mainly to pop up at intervals as
a suitor to persuade Bonnie "You Can Do Better Than Him."
Having already piled up a record, Clyde
Elder) as partner in crime.
urging of his wife Blanche (Melissa Van Der Schyff) to repent and go straight,
Buck gets baptized (to the rousing gospel song "God's Arms Are Always
Open"). For a fresh start, the brothers submit to be judged for a minor
Buck is probationed to
Blanche, but Clyde's past joins his present to land him two years in prison.
Bullied by jailers, beaten and raped by a prisoner, Clyde will escape, hook up
with Bonnie, and return to crime. When he kills a cop, they pledge it's
"Too Late to Turn Back Now." Thence, the second act essentially
repeats the first's dreams, choices, decisions, and events, even the final
joyful "This World Will
Along the way to the well known
conclusion, though, are delicious bits of humor, such as Bonnie signing
her autograph at a robbery, Clyde
reports of his
exploits, and her citing the need for easy end-rhyming as the reason her name
goes first in her poems about them.
Does adding a social context make up for lack of
suspense? Book writer Ivan Menchell tries, in effect, to justify the lovers'
acts by showing them "the end product of a uniquely American decade
defined by poverty, greed, unemployment, violence, and desperation." But
granting this also makes the musical "more compelling and timely," is
that decade unique?
present the times with historical accuracy but ignore history's conclusion that
the pair were psychopaths? People may have been fascinated with Bonnie and
Clyde's exploits, but they weren't admired. Clyde was no Robin Hood, just a
hood, and all the lawmen here or in history aren't villains.
The script also fails to explain why the
couple never seem to travel anywhere leading to Hollywood, while maintaining
it's their goal.
What results from the inconsistencies plus lack of
motivation and justification and sudden shifts (such as Buck's decision to
rejoin Clyde) is failure to care about Bonnie and Clyde. What's pleasing is appealing
Laura Osnes' and edgy Jeremy Jordan's sustained interpretation of those
Their good looks and voices also fit them so well.
Like the leads, the present cast deserve to be Broadway
bound: none more so than Van Der Schyff's insistent Blanche, Elder's humorous
Buck, as well as the vocally impressive Massey, Bessette's Emma, Kelsey Fowler
as Young Bonnie, and Daniel Cooney as Preacher
(among his six other brief roles).
Under John McDaniel, five musicians on piano, guitar,
violin, percussion, and bass do full justice to Frank Wildhorn's
of music---rockabilly to ballads---appropriate to mood,
action, era. (I suspect his fine gospel songs account greatly for the play's
Don Black's excellent
lyrics do double duty as exposition and
emotional expression, with bits of comic relief.
Ivan Menchell's dialogue is believable. He still has to
develop the book but evidences capability to accomplish this not easy task. All
the artists give credit to Asolo Rep's artistic director Michael Donald Edwards
for his contributions to increasing the dynamism of the work's point of view.
Considering the challenge, dramatic and musical director Jeff Calhoun has made
a relatively small cast seem larger but better at getting
the scenes of
Bonnie and Clyde's and related lives, away from the chases and capers
shown in the famed movie.
he will direct the next phase of the musical's development to be as
as artistic as technically
Fact or fiction, I want
every element of the story to be credible.
Tobin Ost designed set and costumes; Michael Gilliam,
lights; Kevin Kennedy, sound; Aaron Rhyne, projections; Carol F. Doran, hair
Paul J. Smith is
Production Stage Manager and Kelly A. Borgia
is Stage Manager for the 2 hour, 40 minutes production with
a 15 minute intermission.
Return to Home Page
(National) Tour Review Index
York City & Environs Theatre Review
Massachusetts Theatre Review
Area Theatre Review Index
Theatre Review Index
Paul (Twin Cities) Theatre
& Environs Theatre Review
Francisco Bay Area Theatre Review Index
Area Theatre Review Index
Ontario (Canada) Index