Thursday, October 9, 2014

BONNIE & CLYDE • New Line Theatre

"Bonnie & Clyde" made a brief appearance on Broadway in 2011 after a world premiere in California two years earlier. This musical isn't a remake of Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn's well known 1967 film starring Beatty and Faye Dunaway. It's another take on this infamous young pair of West Texas bandits, and despite a couple of Tony Award nominations, it only lasted for 36 performances on Broadway. So, what better local company to snatch it up and give it a fresh perspective, as it's done many times in the past ("Hands on a Hardbody", "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson", "High Fidelity"), than New Line Theatre?

The opening numbers introduce us to Bonnie Parker (Larissa White), who longs to be a star of the silver screen, and Clyde Barrow (Matt Pentecost), who longs for easy money and celebrity as an outlaw, like Al Capone and Billy the Kid -- his heroes. These two are trying to break away from the poverty of the Great Depression with a craving for wealth and fame. When they meet after Bonnie's car breaks down, there are immediate sparks. Clyde has just broken out of prison with his brother Buck (Brendan Ochs), and his bad-boy appeal and winning smile is a combination that Bonnie, antsy for a change of pace, can't resist. Buck, meanwhile, has to face the music of his God-fearin' wife Blanche (Sarah Porter), who wants him to turn himself in, finish his time in jail, and get right with Jesus. Bonnie and Clyde's reckless quest for notoriety, through robbing banks, grocery stores, and eventually shedding blood, leads them down a path that brings them closer to the goal, but ultimately to their ends.

Matt Pentecost (Clyde)
and Larissa White (Bonnie).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Pentecost and White's chemistry propels the piece, and both turn in solid performances. Pentecost is half badass and half spoiled brat as Clyde, and White is impressive in her first professional appearance. Once Bonnie gets a whiff of thrill from smuggling a gun into the jail for Clyde, she's all in, later gleefully signing an autograph during a bank robbery. While these two crazy kids may not have a lot in the way of introspection, they both have loads of charm, even as their crime spree, along with Bonnie's poems, lands them on the front pages of the paper. Their ballads to each other, "How 'Bout a Dance?" and "Bonnie" are standouts. Ochs turns in a great performance as Clyde's brother Buck, tempted to follow his brother but pushed to do the right thing. He and Pentecost sound great in "When I Drive". Porter adds a nice dose of humor as Buck's high-strung religious wife Blanche. She may be brassy, but she's sweet in her satisfaction with what she has in "Now That's What You Call a Dream". Strong performances also include Zachary Allen Farmer who lends his soulful voice to the Preacher, Christopher “Zany” Clark as the unflappable Sheriff Schmid, Reynaldo Arceno as Ted Hinton, a lawman who's carrying a torch for Bonnie, and swears to bring Clyde down, Mara Bollini in a brief but memorable appearance as Governor Ferguson and Alison Helmer as Bonnie's distraught mother, Emma.

Cast of New Line Theatre's "Bonnie & Clyde"
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Under Jeffrey Richard Carter's musical direction, the New Line Band is tight, handling Wildhorn's score of depression-era blues, folk, gospel and rockabilly superbly. Rob Lippert's meticulous set features an old gas station, a jail, office and an old Ford center stage that plays into the violent opening and closing of the show. Lippert is also responsible for the lighting design, with costume design by Porter and Marcy Wiegert, who nail the attire, especially the leads, whose duds become swankier as their crimes accelerate. These details, along with Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy's precise direction, work together seamlessly.

Zachary Allen Farmer (Preacher)
and Kimi Short (Cumie Barrow)
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Seeing this production makes it hard to understand why it didn't last longer in NYC. But in the hands of Miller and Dowdy, this tale of ill-fated kids who became nationally known outlaws presents them as they were -- products of their time, which was certainly enough to bring them the fame they both wanted, and definitely worth seeing. Check it out. It's playing until the 25th.


BONNIE & CLYDE

Music by Frank Wildhorn
Lyrics by Don Black
Book by Ivan Menchell
Directed by Scott Miller & Mike Dowdy
Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road
through October 25 | tickets: $15 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm

Cast:
Matt Pentecost (Clyde Barrow), Larissa White (Bonnie Parker), Brendan Ochs (Marvin "Buck" Barrow), Sarah Porter (Blanche Barrow), Reynaldo Arceno (Ted Hinton), Mara Bollini (Governor Miriam Ferguson), Christopher “Zany” Clark (Sheriff Schmid), Kent Coffel (Guard/Capt. Hamer), Zachary Allen Farmer (Preacher), Joel Hackbarth (Henry Barrow), Alison Helmer (Emma Parker), Ann Hier (Eleanore), Marshall Jennings (Judge/ Shopkeeper/Bank Teller), Nellie Mitchell (Stella), Kimi Short (Cumie Barrow/Trish) and Christopher Strawhun (Deputy Bud).

Creative:
Scenic & lighting design by Rob Lippert; sound design by Tim Ceradsky; costume design by Sarah Porter & Marcy Wiegert; props by Kimi Short; stage manager, Gabe Taylor.

The New Line Band:
Piano/conductor, Jeffrey Richard Carter; guitar, D. Mike Bauer; violin, Nikki Glenn; second keyboard, Sue Goldford; bass, Andrew Gurney; percussion, Clancy Newell; reeds, Robert Vinson.

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