Monday, January 27, 2014

A Review of Bonnie and Clyde

On Saturday afternoon I went to see Utah Rep's production of Bonnie and Clyde at the Lehi Arts Center. It closes Feb 1st.

The space is beautifully small. The live band, directed by Anjanette Mickelson, was enchanting. Frank Wildhorn's music is a lovely combination of beautiful melodies reminiscent of Jekyl & Hyde infused with twangy gospel infused country.

I enjoyed the balanced sound.  The voices blended well with the instruments.  At the same time, because of the intimate space--when they announced that they would be firing blanks--I spent the rest of the show covering my ears in anticipation. One poor woman had a blank fired right above her head. I thought she was going to scream. It sure made things exciting.

The show flowed together--scenes weaving in and out. The director, Adam Cannon, created a beautiful world in that small space. He directed a great show that was true to Wildhorn, Don Black, and Ivan Menchell's book and lyrics.  And yet... the show starts off showing us the dead duo. We know what's going to happen. So why on earth does it take 45 minutes for them to die? From the song "Dyin Ain't So Bad" to the reprise of "Dyin Ain't So Bad"--it was just too long.  The show is 3 hours long. The Broadway running time was 2 hours and 20 minutes. I don't know how they managed to add 40 minutes to the show.  Because of the length of the play, I stopped caring. It's like when I went to see Titanic in the movie theater. I really needed to pee and I really needed Leo and Kate to just die already. Or sink.

Favorite moments and characters:

Loved young Clyde. He was darling. His character was a great visual image of the innocent ambitions behind Clyde's dark deeds.

Twyla Wilson's character Blanche Barrow was complicated and north star true. Twyla's voice was like a bell. One of my favorite moments was the duet between Bonnie and Blanche--"You Love Who You Love".

The ensemble was a definite highlight. I especially loved Christopher Bradford and company's performance of "Made in America".

Johnny Wilson's performance of Buck Barrow made sense. I understood everything he did--and every choice he made. He helped me to understand where Clyde was coming from.

Between Buck and Young Clyde--I began to understand where Clyde was coming from. I even respected his decision to break out of jail and choose his own life over someone else's.  My problem with Johnny Hebda's performance of Clyde--is that I never really bought his intentions with Bonnie. Every kiss they shared was so driven by desire that I couldn't relate to the their love story. Instead--it was just really codependent.

Which brings me to Bonnie. I enjoyed that Madeline Weinberger was able to play the pathos and the sass--but I never saw how these moments connected. I missed her arch. The play itself is a collection of moments--vignettes. And in one moment, she wants nothing more than to be famous. And in another moment, she wants nothing more than to be with Clyde. Then she is tired of running. Then she resigns herself to her tragic fate. Through each of these incarnations--there was very little by way of a common thread. It was as though Ms. Weinberger was playing three different characters. Her connection to Mr. Hebda was best when they were joking or making out. But I missed moments of vulnerable tenderness. Or rather, when the tenderness finally came, it was too late in the play.

The production gave me a great deal to think about. I don't need to gush about the beautiful voices--because somewhere on the internet, someone else did. And really--this is Utah. Who doesn't have a beautiful voice? The vocal range of Clyde Barrow is out of Mr. Hebda's range--but he makes a valiant effort. Why is it every leading man on Broadway must be a tenor? Is there no room for a baritone anymore?

Dallin Major as Ted Hinton was a revelation.

Clyde, Buck, and Ted's voices on the reprise of "Raise A Little Hell" gave me goosebumps.

Another favorite scene was at the beginning of the show, "You're Goin Back To Jail". Speaking of that scene and others--there were a few great funny moments. It was just lovely.

Overall, it was an enjoyable afternoon at the theatre--albeit a little long for the subject matter.  The melodies were beautiful and the actors were talented. The weakness in the production was in the play--not in the production. There's a reason this show only ran for 4 weeks on Broadway.  The story is ultimately uninteresting and uninspiring. And no amount of beautiful Wildhorn melodies can make up for that.

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