Photo by Don Kellogg

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bonnie & Clyde

The latest installment in the category of new musicals is taking aim Broadway this month.  Bonnie & Clyde takes up residence at the Schoenfeld Theatre and is aiming for a bulls-eye right on the hearts of its audiences.

Two very talented, up-and-coming (i bet they hate that term) Broadway stars-in-the making take the driver's seat in hopes of winning over audience after audiences to see things their gun-slinging way.  Laura Osnes is a captivating actress with the vocal prowess to back her up from start to finish.  She nails Bonnie's desires and dreams all the while falling in love and getting sucked into Clyde's growing world of crime and guns.   Jeremy Jordan, who is possibly the sexiest man on Broadway today, allows us to see Clyde's tender, human side (and plenty of skin along with that big Broadway smile) as well as his penchant for mischief and his endless dream of being remembered as somebody.

Bonnie & Clyde's book by Ivan Menchell should be a top contender for a Tony this year.  He's taken a classic American story, poured his heart into additional research about people behind the legends and laid it out in a swift flowing love story that unfolds neatly over 2 1/2 hours.   Don Black (Lyrics) and Frank Wildhorn (Music) have taken a little country music, a whole lot of Broadway, added some some pop-like vocals and blended them all together to aptly accompany the book.  The result, at its core, is a fantastic love story that has, what most would not realize, is a happy ending for the two characters.

Technically - all around - the show was magnificent - Sets and costumes by Tobin Ost were completely immersed in the period - including the "curtains" of wood posts and slats that continually revealed and hit the upstage scenes and actors; The lighting by Michael Gilliam, of course, had to contain the requisite strobes and flashes of the guns, but he used every square inch of the downstage and upstage to display a complete repertoire of lighting effects that appropriately highlighted and hid the action;  Sound by John Shivers provided for ricocheting bullets around the theatre and almost entirely naturally amplified the vocals and dialogue throughout the theatre.  This show also naturally lends itself to the use of video projections - by Aaron Rhyne.  Real newspaper headlines and WANTED posters were often flashed on walls.  And the characters often snapped pictures of themselves on stage in a certain pose with an old fashioned camera - and then instantly the same authentic old photograph of the subjects (in the same positions) would get projected on the backdrop on stage.  Which brings me back to costumes (Tobin Ost), Hair and Wigs (Charles LaPointe), Makeup (Ashley Ryan) - I lost count of how many times I saw the detail that went into the craft - such as Bonnie's dress, her hairstyle, and just how remarkably similar the actors looked to the real-life historic photographs of the characters they were portraying.  Projections can sometimes be distracting.  In this case, Bravo Aaron Rhyne and director Jeff Calhoun for an appropriate dispatch of the technology.

With all this technical and performing brilliance, there is one note I'd like to give to the director.  Shorten it up!  Mr. Menchell's book may be thorough, but he's got too much exposition and repeated themes.  The opening scene was brilliantly brief.  In under 10 minutes we were acclimated to the storyline, setting, time, and provided the general character and plot exposition.  Use that technique more throughout the play.  Cut the repeated love scenes (and at least one or two numbers from each act) and focus on keeping the story moving.  Shorten Act I and speed up Act II.  Get this thing moving at a quicker pace and you'll have happier audiences who leave the theatre saying "Great show" instead of "Great show, but too long.  Trim it down to 120 minutes including the intermission and you, sir, will have hit the target with a bulls-eye.