BWW Review: Candlelight Pavilion Presents an Engaging BONNIE & CLYDE
Bonnie & Clyde/book by Ivan Menchell/music by Frank Wildhorn; lyrics by Don Black/directed by Victor Hernandez/music director: Ryan O'Connell/Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre, Claremont/through October 14
When people read that the violent story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow was musicalized in 2009, they may cringe at the thought of it making a decent musical. But it is, and much more than just decent. It's really quite appetizing, particularly on an entertainment level.
Frank Wildhorn has always been a controversial composer, creating majestic scores for The Scarlet Pimpernel and Jekyll & Hyde. He is also the creator of some very lovely ballads. But, somehow, he's been passed over or unduly criticized. In Bonnie & Clyde. I firmly believe he has fashioned his finest score - there's a little pop, a little blues, a little country, a little gospel - it's almost unrecognizable Wildhorn. It's totally upbeat and suits the idyllic optimism of Bonnie and Clyde like a glove.
This is a love story, ill-fated, but still a love story of two real people who had a plan - not a dream - but a plan to rise above everyone else in their small average Texas town. They never really wanted to be bad, just famous; once defined by criminal behavior, they were trapped and could not go back. The most tragic aspect of the story is they truly believed that they were the idols fans made them out to be. In fact, they became real folk heroes. And, during a time of Great Depression, they were often willing to give something back to the people. And, they really loved their family...it was this insistence on being with their family that brought them to their violent demise more quickly.
Currently onstage at Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre, this production is an absolute joy to watch with a sparkling cast and stellar direction by Victor Hernandez. Callandra Olivia as Bonnie and Beau Brians as Clyde inhabit these roles from the inside out. Like the common folk that became fans of the couple, I found myself being drawn into their story, liking them...almost eerily admiring them.....obviously due to the strength of Olivia's and Brians' performances. An extra added plus is that they are lovely to look at as well. Katie McGhie as sister-in-law Blanche is totally genuine in conveying her deep-seated Christian beliefs. Nic Olsen as Buck Barrow has the reverse disposition of Clyde; he could be your neighbor, your friend, your sibling, a good man who should never have gone bad. Also outstanding are Greg Nicholas as the sheriff, Michael Lanning as the preacher, who orginated the role at La Jolla and took it to Broadway, David Sasik as Ted, the cop so in love with Bonnie, Jennifer Lawson, Bonnie's mother and Lisa Dyson in two roles as Clyde's mother and Governor Ferguson.
Chuck Ketter's scenic design with its wood panels against which are shown pictures and video clips of the actual Bonnie and Clyde (design by Aaron Rhyne) and costumes from The Theatre Company add terrific authenticity to the piece. It is so wonderful to have a live 6-piece orchestra above the set onstage led by great music director Ryan O'Connell at the keyboard.
In praise of Menchell's book, I so admire the artistic, nonviolent ending. The violence worked on the big screen, but onstage, we need an extra special touch to preserve the memory of the romance, like a lovely waltz as the rest of the world looks on. To be described as ravishing made poet Bonnie's day. We are left with an almost poetic image of the two that shows humanity as good as well as evil. Candlelight's production values are top-notch and on a par with the original production.
Act One at Candlelight is the fabulous dinner with service that is always impeccable. When audiences shout bravo, it is for the splendid fresh food and sparkling drinks, as well as the show that follows. This time for a mere $6 try The Bathtub Special, The Secret Password or The Getaway Car, a delicious Irish-type coffee with Bourbon and a splash of grenadine. The waiters are consistently friendly and ready to make your dining experience pure heaven.
Next up The Addams Family just in time for Halloween!