BWW Review: BONNIE & CLYDE at MainLine Theatre
Brand new musical theatre company, Contact Theatre has made it's debut with a bang! Their inaugural production BONNIE & CLYDE opened last night at the MainLine Theatre to a sold out crowd.
BONNIE & CLYDE had it's World Premiere in 2009 in La Jolla, California. The show opened on Broadway in 2011, where it ran for just 4 short weeks. Despite it's short run, the show was nominated for 3 Outer Critics Circle Awards, 5 Drama Desk Awards and 2 Tony Awards.
At the height of the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went from two small-town nobodies in West Texas to America's most renowned folk heroes and Texas law enforcement's worst nightmares. When Bonnie and Clyde meet, their mutual cravings for excitement and fame immediately set them on a mission to chase their dreams. Their bold and reckless behaviour turns the young lovers' thrilling adventure into a downward spiral, putting themselves and their loved ones in trouble with the law. Forced to stay on the run, the lovers resort to robbery and murder to survive. As their fame grows bigger, their inevitable end draws nearer.
It's a story many of us already know, either from the history books or the film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the infamous, yet ill-fated duo. In the simplest of terms, BONNIE & CLYDE is a love story. There just happens to be a lot of violence and murder thrown into the mix.
Director/Choreographer Debora Friedmann and Producer Ally Brumer have assembled an incredibly talented and energetic young cast of emerging Montreal talent.
Camille Cormier Morasse plays Bonnie with just the right amount of spunk and drive. Her vocals are effortless and souring. Of particular note is her 11 o'clock number, "Dyin' Ain't So Bad," which was incredibly moving. Joel Bernstein's Clyde was the perfect combination of cocky and likeable. Morasse and Bernstein's chemistry is undeniable and we are rooting for them, though we know their ultimate fate.
Though the show is about Bonnie and Clyde, the standout performances came from Mike Masrtomonaco as Clyde's brother Buck, who's trying to play it straight and Julia Kennific as his religious and long suffering wife, Blanche. Mastromonico perfectly portrayed Buck's battle with wanting to do the right thing by Blanche and his need for the thrill of life on the road with Clyde. Kennific expertly displays
her comedic and vocal chops, along with her outstanding southern accent, in her first number, "You're Going Back to Jail". But it's in her act two solo, "That's what You Call A Dream" that we really catch a glimpse of her depth as an actor. Their story is the most tragic.
Music Director, Corina Vincelli, who also plays The Preacher, lifts us to the heavens with her powerful vocals. She brought down the house with her gospel infused "God's Arms Are Always Open" and "Made in America". I learned after the performance that Vincelli took over the role just two weeks ago, after the actor who was originally cast dropped out of the production. We are blessed!
Rounding out the cast, with nary a weak performance are Daniel Wilkenfeld as the love struck Ted Hinton, Justin Calla as Sheriff Schmid, who also serves as the Fight Captain, Lindsay Milner and Bryan Libero as Clyde and Buck's parents Cumie and Henry Barrow, Leya Gervais as Bonnie's mother Emma Parker, along with Elizabeth Hendy, Megane Valliere, Hannah Lazare, Dylan Stanley, Lucas Amato and Abigail McCrory and Cameron Saibil as Young Bonnie and Young Clyde.
Debora Friedmann's direction is masterful. She pays homage to the original production, while infusing it with her own originality and keen eye. The shoot-out scene alone had the audience in awe with clever staging, lighting and sound effects. Her choreography is simple, yet effective and was beautifully executed by the cast. Bonnie and Blanche's duet, "You Love Who You Love," is a perfect example. Each actress simply walked opposite each other around the perimeter of the stage. It was entrancing.
The lighting and projection design by Malika Pharand was visually stunning, with a fun lighting effect at Clyde's early sentencing scene. Interspersed throughout the show was footage of the real Bonnie and Clyde, projected on a simple white sheet that was raised and lowered as needed.
The sound design by Evan Brown had the feel of the 1930s. The sound effects were all effective and kept us engaged. The MainLine is a tough space when it comes to the technical aspect. Though there were some vocal and music balance issues throughout, Brown should be commended for the mix.
The simple set designed by Kenzia Dalie was perfect for the space. From Bonnie and Clyde's car to the prison bars, the set was versatile and accommodating to all the various locales.
The rocking band lead enthusiastically by Nick Gallant, includes Ian Baird on piano, Elijah Baker on drums, Kevin Bourne on guitar, Lisa Trubiano-Arnold on bass, Noah Century on reeds and Meiling Fong on violin and fiddle. In a fun twist, the band was also featured as citizens and bank employees throughout the show.
Composed by Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll and Hyde), the score contains some melodic songs, but the combination of 1930s music and contemporary rock doesn't always gel. Don Black's lyrics can be a little disconcerting and unimaginative and Ivan Menchell's book is a bit too tedious . Though we have some wonderful backstory on Bonnie and Clyde, the show could do with some edit's to tighten it up and let the story flow more effectively.
It's no small feat to produce a musical of this scale, but Contact Theatre has done an outstanding job with their first production. They are a welcome addition to the passionate musical theatre community in Montreal and I look forward to see what their future holds!
BONNIE & CLYDE runs through Sunday, April 28, 2019 at the MainLine Theatre, 3997 boul. St-Laurent in Montreal. Though the run is sold out, a small number of tickets may be released just prior to each performance. Contact the MainLine Box Office at (514)849-3378.
Photo credit: Joshua Faier