Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off on GUN & POWDER at Paper Mill Playhouse

Performances run through May 5, 2024.

By: Apr. 18, 2024
Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off on GUN & POWDER at Paper Mill Playhouse
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What did critics think about Paper Mill Playhouse's  production of the new musical Gun & Powder, with book and lyrics by Angelica Chéri and music by Ross Baum?

Directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, choreographed by Tiffany Rea-Fisher and music directed by Austin Cook, the production plays now through May 5, 2024 at PaperMill Playhouse.

Gun & Powder stars Liisi LaFontaine as Martha Clarke, Ciara Renée as Mary Clarke, Jeannette Bayardelle as Tallulah Clarke, Aaron James McKenzie as Elijah, Hunter Parrish as Jesse Whitewater, and Jisel Soleil Ayon as Standby for Mary and Martha.

The ensemble of Gun & Powder includes Rickens Anantua, Reed CampbellCarrie Compere, Meghan Olivia Corbett, Joann Gilliam, Francesca GranellAaron Arnell HarringtonMary Claire KingMalik Shabazz Kitchen, Rayshun LaMarr, Zonya LoveTiffany MannTony PerryAdam Roberts, Hank SantosChristine ShepardKatie ThompsonAurelia Williams, and Jason SweetTooth Williams.

Gun & Powder is a new musical inspired by the true story of Mary (Renée) and Martha Clarke (LaFontaine), African American twin sisters who take extraordinary measures to settle their mother’s sharecropper debt and save her home. In 1893 Texas, the Sisters Clarke—passing as white—embark on a remarkable Wild West adventure that examines race, family, and identity with two electrifying women who transformed from farm girls to outlaws to legends.

The production features orchestrations by John Clancy, scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Emilio Sosa, lighting design by Adam Honoré, sound design by Connor Wang, wig, hair, and makeup design by J. Jared Janas & Tony Lauro, fight direction by Sordelet, Inc./Rick Sordelet, and intimacy direction by Crista Marie Jackson. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting. Jakob W. Plummer is the Production Stage Manager.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Naveen Kumar, NY Times: The dynamics of passing have long held narrative fascination for their entanglement of power, secrecy and desire. And accounts of Black life in the Old West remain a rarity. Baum and Chéri’s score, while incorporating an array of styles rooted in gospel and R&B, leans heavily on vocal gymnastics and could benefit from a bit more restraint. And the rapid ramp-up and conclusion of the Clarkes’ criminal careers could use more detailed development.

Marina Kennedy, BroadwayWorld: The score is compelling with soulful melodies, romantic ballads, and vibrant tunes. Songs complement the story beautifully.  The numbers are memorable and wonderfully performed. 

Juan A. Ramirez, Theaterly: Chéri has a gift for theatricality, beautifully realized by Walker-Webb’s staging. What they create — along with the insanely talented assemble — is an often breathtaking musical as big as its ambitions, and as fun-loving as its gun-toting heroines


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