Bonnie & Clyde may have featured as fine a score as any of its 2011-12 Broadway competitors (including Once and Newsies), but that didn’t stop critics from making sure that Frank Wildhorn’s latest musical bit the dust after a mere two months, previews included, just one reason SoCal audiences haven’t been granted the fully-staged professional production Bonnie & Clyde so richly deserves, just one reason Angelinos can rejoice that at the very least, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow returned to life last Sunday for one night only thanks to Musical Theatre Guild.
The Depression-era outlaw-robbers who inspired Arthur Penn’s 1967 movie classic Bonnie And Clyde (“They’re young … they’re in love … and they kill people.”) ought to have had similar hit status on Broadway four years ago.
Well-received runs at the La Jolla Playhouse and in Sarasota, Florida boded well for Big Apple success were it not for the vendetta New York critics seem to have against Wildhorn, the composer’s Wonderland having met a similar fate earlier in 2011.
That Bonnie & Clyde might be accused of celebrating the lives of a sociopath (Clyde) and a 15-minutes-of-fame-seeker (Bonnie) who not only robbed banks, small stores, and rural gas stations but whose gang is believed to have killed as many as a dozen police officers and civilians could be another reason we’ve heard virtually nothing from the musical since its ignominious closing.
Still, with Wildhorn’s melodies as gorgeous as Broadway melodies get (with period country-western shadings nothing at all like the bombast of Jekyll & Hyde), deft lyrics by Don Black, and Ivan Menchell’s book compacting and humanizing Bonnie and Clyde’s lives into a two-and-a-half-hour musical, Bonnie & Clyde deserved a better Broadway fate … and still deserves a the kind of regional second chance we’ve recently seen for the only slightly longer-running Catch Me If You Can and Big Fish.
Without Broadway-scale sets, lighting, special effects, and multiple costume changes, Bonnie & Clyde lends itself less well to the concert staged reading format than MTG’s recent Road Show or Sweet Smell Of Success.
Leads Ashley Fox Linton and Will Collyer could not have made for a more superbly acted and sung titular pair, with the added bonus of romantic stage chemistry honed in Sweet Smell Of Success and Death Takes A Holiday, to name just two of their recent MTG couplings.
Expert acting support (and sensational vocals) were provided by Brandon Michael Perkins as Clyde’s well-intentioned but ultimately complicit brother Buck and Alyssa M. Simmons as Buck’s moralistic but ultimately complicit wife Blanche, along with the equally golden-throated Dennis Kyle (Ted Hinton), Scott Harlan (Preacher, John, Judge, Radio Announcer), Kevin Symons (Sheriff Schmid), Jaidyn Young (Young Bonnie), Grant Palmer (Young Clyde), and Christopher Callan (Emma Parker).
Completing the topnotch cast in assorted cameo roles were David Atkinson (Captain Frank Hamer, Judge, Bank Teller), Chuck Bergman (Bob Alcorn, Preacher, Joe, Penitentiary Guard, Customer), Julie Garnye (Stella), Jenny Gordon (Eleanor), Barbara Carlton Heart (Cumie Barrow, Governor Ferguson), Tyler Ledon (Deputy Johnson, Cop, Shopkeeper, Penitentiary Guard), Josey Montana McCoy (Bud, Archie), Kevin McMahon (Henry Barrow), and Carly Nykanen (Trish), with special snaps to Salon Women Garnye, Gordon, and Nykanen who made the “You’re Going Back To Jail” sequence a comedic treat.
Among song highlights meriting audience cheers were Perkins and Collyer’s “When I Drive,” Linton and Collyer’s “This World Will Remember Me,” “Too Late To Turn Back Now,” and “What Was Good Enough For You,” Collyer’s “Bonnie,” Kyle and Collyer’s “You Can Do Better Than Him,” and preacher man Harlan’s hallelujah-worthy “God’s Arms Are Always Open” and “Made In America.”
Still, if there are any vocal performances audiences will be recalling in days to come, it will be those by leading ladies Linton and Simmons, including their C&W-hit-potential duet “You Love Who You Love,” Simmons’ “That’s What You Call A Dream,” and Linton’s “How ‘Bout A Dance,” topped by arguably the most gorgeously tear-inducing song in recent Broadway memory, “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad,” sung to perfection in Linton’s incomparable soprano.
Tom Griep’s expert musical direction (and the show’s absolutely terrific five-piece band) and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s as-always pitch-perfect period costumes (by AJS Costumes) contributed to the evening’s magic. Jeffrey Scott Parsons was production coordinator. Art Brickman was production stage manager and Mara Aguilar and Marissa Kristy assistant stage manager.s
Memo to Southern California regional theater artistic directors:
Give us the fully-staged Bonnie & Clyde that musical theater lovers—and the musical itself—so richly deserve.
In the meantime, those present at the Alex on Sunday can thank their lucky stars that they were there.
Alex Theatre, Glendale.
September 21, 2105
Photos: Alan Weston