BWW Review: BONNIE & CLYDE at The Forum Theatre Company

BWW Review: BONNIE & CLYDE at The Forum Theatre Company

A funny thing happened on the way to The Forum - my GPS took me to the corner of Broadway and 3rd. Make sure you turn right on 3rd and then take another immediate right into the driveway. The theatre is located in The Wilke Center, which is on the backside of the First United Methodist Church, and the parking lot is well lit. The entrance to the theatre is obviously marked, and the lobby is spacious and bright. As I entered the theatre, the only evidence I had that this was a gymnasium was the ghost of the basketball hoops suspended from the ceiling. I was quite impressed with how the space had been transformed into a generously sized thrust stage, with ample room for an audience, a backstage area, a concession area, and other amenities necessary for a theatrical production.

This musical is the perfect choice for Wichita, as most of the action takes place on familiar territory, from West Texas to Missouri, from Arkansas to Kansas, at the height of the Great Depression. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went from two small-town nobodies to America's most renowned folk heroes and Texas law enforcement's worst nightmares. This musical is also the perfect choice for our times - Bonnie craves fame as an IT girl; Clyde wants to be as famous as Al Capone. When the two meet, they set out on a mission to escape the drudgery in their lives and chase their dreams, but their reckless behavior puts themselves and their loved ones in trouble with the law. We follow the lovers as they resort to robbery and murder to survive, and we see the effects this lifestyle has on the family. It is a classic tale showing us the reality of poverty - if there are no job opportunities, a few enterprising entrepreneurs will resort to a life of crime.

Bonnie & Clyde features a non-traditional score, combining blues, gospel and rockabilly music by composer Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde), with a book by Ivan Menchell, and lyrics by Don Black. The Forum's excellent 5 piece band, led by Musical Director Ben Karnes, is tight and tasty as they lay a solid foundation for the singers. Thanks to Sound Designer Adam Akers, the powerful intro literally rocks you in your seat. Ben Junke's set is simple, and spaces are indicated by a few key set pieces, props, and a brilliant lighting design that clearly defines the acting areas. Strong direction by Kathryn Page Hauptman keeps the performances truthful without sacrificing the quick pace necessary for this piece.

At the top of the show, we meet a young Bonnie Parker, played solidly by Lexye Collins (MTW, MTYP) sing about how she'll become a movie star; likewise we meet a young Clyde, sung well by Noah Sickman (Andover Central Middle School, MTYP), sharing his dreams, and boasting of his prowess with a gun. These younger versions appear strategically throughout the show to great effect, and seamlessly segue into their adult versions.

Ari Chandler, a WSU Senior, is a deliciously sexy Bonnie Parker, juxtaposing the veneer of a breathless bimbo with the smarts of a farm girl. Chandler is strong vocally in this role, and explores the whole of her range in "Dyin' Ain't So Bad," a Country Western ballad reflecting on the inevitable conclusion their escapades bring.

Steve Hitchcock (MTW, Mosley St.) sounds great as Clyde Barrow, and he and Chandler have some wonderful moments together, including a sweet bathtub scene before they meet their grisly demise. Clyde's lament from his prison cell near the end of Act I, "Raise A Little Hell," is a powerful moment both physically and vocally for Hitchcock. In "Too Late To Turn Back," sung passionately by Chandler and Hitchcock early in the second act, the couple accepts their inevitable life of crime as a consequence of their murderous actions.

Broadway Veteran and WSU Grad Jen Bechter is currently Adjunct Instructor at Southwestern College and takes us all back to school with her beautifully poignant and nuanced performance as Blanche Barrow, the beleaguered God fearing wife of Clyde's brother, Buck. Bechter sings her finale song, "God's Arms Are Always Open," with intensity and power, sharing her pain and abject loss with abandon.

Buck Barrow, Clyde's little brother, is played more than ably here Max Wilson (Roxy's Downtown, Mosely St. Melodrama, WSU Grad). Wilson's Buck is at once simple and complex - a wide eyed, simple country boy devoted to his wife and family, yet eager to join Clyde on his nefarious journey. Wilson handles the Wildhorn material with great ease, sounding stellar in "Raise A Little Hell" Reprise. His scenes with Bechter are incredibly truthful and honest.

Forum regular Ted Dvorak gave a solid performance as Ted Hinton, Bonnie's jilted suitor. Beth Wise (Prairie Pines) plays Bonnie's mother, Emma, to great effect, being both stern and loving, in her meticulously clean style. Dave Raephour is perfectly cast as the Preacher. In "God's Arms," his pleasant voice is smooth as silk. Ensemble standouts include Jaslyn Alexander, with her bright, perky delivery as Trish, and Alison Chambers gave us a great turn as the no-nonsense Governor Miriam Ferguson.

Bonnie and Clyde is rated PG, and runs until Sunday, October 14, with evening performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm, and a Matinee on Sunday at 2pm. I hear the performances sold out last weekend, so make sure you get you tickets right away! Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.forumwichita.com/movies/bonnie-clyde/ or by calling 316-618-0444. They can also be purchased at The Forum Box Office before the show. Upcoming events include and Art & Faith Forum, Wed, October 10 at 7pm at the Wilke Center. Upcoming shows include Barrymore, November 1-11; Winter Wonderettes, November 29 - December 16; The All Night Strut, February 8 - March 3, 2019; and Shear Madness, April 25 - May 19, 2019.

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From This Author Paula Makar

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