Not since Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett has Broadway asked its audiences to love as gruesome a duo as Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Both couples will chill and thrill you, but there is one huge difference: while both are legendary, only the latter pair were actual people. And because these two were the real thing, the writers of the new musical Bonnie and Clyde are asking us to connect with true life murderous monsters. That they really existed takes us to places we may not want to go.
The show couldn't be more timely, really. We Americans are living in a time not unlike that of Bonnie and Clyde: the "haves" have more, the "have-nots" have less; the banks have no money to lend; no one can afford to buy. We are a celebrity obsessed nation, where the seedy side of every day heroes enthrall us more than that which made them heroes in the first place. And more and more and more of us seem willing to do anything for a quick buck and our fifteen minutes of fame. Going down in a blaze of glory is the perfect way to make history.
To its credit, the entire show lets us decide for ourselves if robbing the rich and the poor is forgivable. It wears the duplicity of this couple on its blood spattered sleeves. The couple was madly, passionately in love; they were also violently abusive and dangerously co-dependent. They robbed banks in the name of justice for the poor; they robbed grocery stores for the thrill, practice and ease of it. They shot, at first anyway, only when shot at. The public adored them for sticking up for the little people; they adored being adored - she made no secret of wanting to be a star; he modeled his life after Billy the Kid. But then we are also asked to consider that these star struck/star crossed lovers had reason to turn out the way they did.
|"Dyin' Ain't So Bad"|
And so Bonnie and Clyde asks us some really tough questions: Can we still trust in God when it seems that he has forgotten us? Is there salvation in forgiveness? Can we
Like I said, the creative team asks us to ponder these things and to arrive at our own conclusions. And they have certainly given us a lot to mull over and chew upon. Tobin Ost's monolithic set, with its towering columns of worn and weathered wood and uneven and sharply off balance platforms immediately thrust us into an overwhelming place of destitution and despair; a place where every way you turn is literally an uphill climb, and where society - your fellow Americans - are never firmly afoot, but rather always on the verge of falling over the edge of whatever brink they currently face. Aside from a few set pieces and the symbolic use of a Model T, only Michael Gilliam's moody, evocative lighting and Aaron Rhyne's breathtaking and eerie projections give us any concrete information about where and when we are in the story. Together with director Jeff Calhoun, these designers have created a world both as real as our own and as hauntingly theatrical as you are likely to see in this so far uneven season of musicals.
|"When I Drive"|
The ensemble does some terrific work, managing to bring us a cavalcade of poor Americans in several scenes, but you never once feel like you are seeing the same people recycled. They really get to shine during a grocery store hold up and one of two big church scenes. Those, scenes, led by a very capable Daniel Cooney (understudy for Michael Lanning) also offer some biting commentary on the place of religion in desperate times, what with prayers unanswered and a government even more unresponsive (Act One's "God's Arms Are Always Open" and the scathing anti-government undertones in Act Two's "Made in America). Also of note in the ensemble is the dry weariness and welcome comedy of the "salon ladies" Alison Cimmet, Garrett Long and Marissa McGowan.
|3 to 1: Ted Hinton, the Sheriff and a Deputy|
vs. Clyde Barrow
The performances by the two kids in the cast, Kelsey Fowler and Talon Ackerman, as the young versions of the title characters, serve their purpose well, without being too cloying. It is only later, when they face their adult selves that you feel a bit of forced theatricality after everything else comes off so much more naturally. Perhaps it would have worked better had we seen them again at different stages of the adult Bonnie and Clyde's journey. Or maybe it would have been more interesting had they (well, other adult actors, anyway) been portraying Clara Bow and Billy the Kid, mentors both.
|Buck and Blanche Barrow|
|The Barrow Gang - Blanche, Buck, Clyde and Bonnie|
|Laura Osnes as Bonnie Parker|
|Jeremy Jordan as Clyde Barrow|
|Bonnie and Clyde together|
|"The World Will Remember Us"|
For more information go to http://bonnieandclydebroadway.com.
Production photos by Nathan Johnson.