Pictured: Madeline Perrone as Bonnie Parker and Michael McClure as Clyde Barrow.
Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical
Book by Ivan Menchell
Lyrics by Don Black, Music by Frank Wildhorn
Directed by Lee Buckholz
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2015, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
I’m not sure I get the continuing appeal of the historical characters of Bonnie and Clyde. From everything I’ve seen or read, they were incredibly damaged people who had the misfortune of meeting, and proceeded to go out of their way to do horrible things. And yet they are romanticized as a twentieth century Romeo and Juliet, in film, TV, and the stage.
The Broadway musical of their story, currently playing at the Derby Dinner Playhouse, does little to change that image, at least for me. Ultimately it’s an ugly story about beautiful people doing ugly things. It’s really hard to root for these characters, and that’s a sure way to kill an audience’s interest in a story.
It’s also a relentlessly downbeat tale, opening with the view of the two lovers shot to death in their car, then flashing back to when they were children and letting the story unfold from there. So right from the start you know there is no hope for these characters, even if you didn’t already know the outcome.
The production, at least, is first-rate. Lee Buckholz has done some of the most clever staging I’ve seen at Derby Dinner Playhouse, managing to pull off driving sequences and shootouts, and even a naked backside for a couple of seconds. His set design is quite clever, utilizing one set for the whole show but making it believable as many locations.
As Bonnie, Madeline Perrone is in fine voice and gives an amazing performance, but the character still just comes off as an entitled brat. Michael McClure definitely acts the part as Clyde, but his singing voice faltered several times; he seemed to be struggling to hit notes that were out of his range. And again, the character as written is just so unlikable (at one point he sings a whole song about how he’d rather be a thief and murderer than make an honest living doing something like farm work) that you just wait for him to get blown away and put us out of our misery!
It’s the side characters that come off best, especially Jordan Cyphert as Clyde’s ill-fated and worshipful brother Buck, and Sara King as Clyde’s longsuffering wife Blanche. The story of these two and how they are destroyed by Bonnie and Clyde’s antics was, for me, the heart of the show and made it worth watching.
The show also boasts some nice music; seamlessly moving from country and folk music stylings, to more of a ragtime feel, and ultimately more traditional Broadway show tunes. It’s nice work, especially from composer Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlett Pimpernel), who frankly doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
I just wish the music were being put in service of a better story.
Starring Dick Baker, Matthew Brennan, Matthew Chappell, Brittany Carricato Cox, Alex Craig, Kevin Crain, Jordan Cyphert, Cami Glauser, Lem Jackson, Paul Kerr, Sara King, Elizabeth Loos, Michael McClure, Edward Miskie, John Payonk, Kayla Peabody, Madeleine Perrone, Jillian Prefach, Caroline Seigrist, Austin Stang, Roman Tate, Kiersten Vorheis, Tina Jo Wallace.
Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical
February 17 – March 29, 2015
[box_light]Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo. [/box_light]