BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Brilliant BONNIE & CLYDE
I'm constantly amazed at the way New Line Theatre is able to find so many hidden gems among the countless shows that play on or off Broadway, exposing all of their true beauty and charms in newly imagined stagings. You begin to wonder how critics could be so misguided in their initial assessments, but then you begin to realize that artistic director Scott Miller truly understands, and takes the time to dissect, the reasons behind a good show's commercial failure. And then he fixes it. If you want to see a prime example of this skill, and believe me - you do, then you have to check out New Line's current production of Bonnie & Clyde. You'll be blown away by how engaging the story and characters are, and you'll be humming the score as you walk out the doors because it's just so incredibly and infectiously catchy.
While almost everyone seems to recognize the names Bonnie and Clyde, few know very much about them. Unless you've taken the time to watch a History Channel show that details their depression-era exploits, you may have only gleaned any information about them from the film which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. What you'll take away from Ivan Menchell's book and Don Black's lyrics is a twisted interpretation of the quest to attain the American Dream. Bonnie Parker wants to be a poet, a dancer, and a Hollywood starlet, while Clyde Barrow wants to see his name in headlines, plastered alongside such anti-heroes as Al Capone and "Baby Face" Nelson. Both have grown up living in poverty, and having to deal with the harsh realities life brought to a lot of families who tried to make a living during those lean times. When these two unstoppable forces meet, they create a media sensation that captivates a nation that feels betrayed by the very institutions this pair robs to fuel their fantasies.
Matt Pentecost (Clyde) and Larissa White (Bonnie) are both very strong as the leads. Pentecost has the right air of cockiness mixed with, and possibly heightened by, a lack of education that makes Clyde such a dangerous, compelling, and naive individual. It's those qualities that attract Bonnie to him in the first place; he's determined, so she knows he could be her ticket to a new life, but he's also pliable, so she knows she can influence his decisions. White entrances throughout the proceedings, but is especially sharp when she demonstrates her singing talent during "How 'Bout A Dance?." In much the same way, Pentecost has one of his best moments when he serenades her with a ukelele while crooning the tune "Bonnie." They're a really good match, which is important since the show depends on their chemistry clicking in order to fully succeed.
Sarah Porter is wonderful as bible-thumping Blanche Barrow, who tries to lure her husband Buck (a splendid Brendan Ochs), Clyde's brother and fellow partner-in-crime, away from the dark side, namely Clyde. Zachary Allen Farmer also makes a vivid impression as the impassioned Preacher, delivering some truly soulful sermons in the process. Reynaldo Arceno gains our sympathy as the lovestruck Ted Hinton, who must pursue the couple as a law enforcement officer, while struggling with his own feelings toward Bonnie. Alison Helmer amps up the dramatic aspects as Bonnie's concerned mother, Emma.
Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy interpret this piece with considerable style and energy, and the entire cast is fully invested in their vision. Musical Director Jeffrey Richard Carter's (piano/conductor) contributions are inestimable, as Frank Wildhorn's delicious, genre-hopping, syncopated score gets completely stuck in your head. He's aided in his efforts by the marvelous work of: D. Mike Bauer (guitar), Nikki Glenn (violin), Sue Goldford (keyboard), Andrew Gurney (bass), Clancy Newell (percussion), and Robert Vinson (reeds). Robert Lippert's 1930's scenic design and lighting scheme makes superb use of the space, with Sarah Porter and Marcy Weigert completing the atmosphere with period costumes.
Don't miss out on a chance to see New Line Theatre's brilliant and tuneful production of Bonnie & Clyde. I guarantee you'll be singing, whistling, or humming one of the songs from the score before the night is through. See it through October 25, 2014.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg