Bang, Bang..."Bonnie & Clyde" is Almost Gone

Oh, the darkness is upon us. In a few days, we will be losing some of our own from the Great White Way and while I can’t get worked up over Private Lives (Have not seen it) or The Addams Family (Wanted to see it, but had a bad experience at the box office that deterred my desire), we are losing the not-so-bad Bonnie and Clyde.

In short, Bonnie & Clyde was this season’s Catch Me If You Can. A period piece adapted from a movie that had a lot of hype, but was unjustly bashed by critics and will have to settle for a premature closing. Poor Frank Wildhorn; Wonderland should not have run past a single performance (it was that bad, unfortunately), but this one deserved a chance. If you are a non-revival musical on Broadway and cannot match the hype, off to the guillotine you go.

Yes, the show is not perfect. But yes, you should see it before it closes on Friday. The show works on concept and its “updated retro” mantra alone. How to appeal to a modern audience? Draw parallels of The Great Depression alongside the current recession. Live-projecting vintage newspapers/headlines on the stage? Brilliant idea; I’m sold. Throwing some heart-stopping firearm scenes and sound effects? Ostensibly scary and trying a little to hard for bombast and shock value, but it still works.

"I'm Clyde. I enjoy thievery in my spare time."
"You're cute. Nothing else matters, right?"
Moving on…the show might have been better received if it was not so uneven, with scenes veering wildly between high-camp farce, sexy period romance, blazing action romp and…this unnerving darkness of human nature. Nothing explains this more then a scene during the second act, where Bonnie and Clyde rob a bank, only to get into a verbal tussle on whether or not their calling card should read as “Bonnie and Clyde” or “Clyde and Bonnie.” It surprised me that they played it for laughs because it came out of nowhere (literally) and contradicted the previous and succeeding scenes. Hell, even that same scene ended in a violent rage and shoot-out. C’mon now, really? Scenes like that prompted me to believe that the show had no idea what it was or what it is trying to be. The inconsistent characterizations and score followed suit and that was all she wrote.

If there was one thing I vehemently disliked about the show, it was pretty much everyone not the four leads {Clyde, Bonnie, Buck and Blanche Barrow). Oh sure; I had some slight tiffs in regards to them (namely, Clyde), but the rest of the ensemble needed to be set on fire. Young Clyde and Young Bonnie need to take permanent vacations six feet under because no matter how innocently naïve they tried to be, they were a pointless device who’s only purpose was to provide the contrast in the characters Bonnie and Clyde eventually become. You can’t humanize a character by showing a cute and whimsical version of themselves; does that sound like a hot idea to anyone?

"Oh please, arrest us already. Just get us
away from the congregation."
Believe me, it gets worse. The preacher and the congregation (meaning, the obvious shoehorned-in religious subtext to reflect the 1930’s) were AWFUL. Even more pointless then Young Bonnie and Young Clyde, they perform the two least-appealing numbers of the show and are just there for no reason. By the time they finished their second number, which opens up the second act, I literally threw my arms up in the air in horror. The rest of the theater was lucky my lady friend @BwayNews was my company for the show; otherwise, I might have spewed my animosity quite loudly through the theater risking ejection.

Seriously, I couldn’t even bear…

Don’t even get me started on Louis Hobson’s Ted, a rival cop on Clyde’s trail and potential suitor for Bonnie. It was the worst attempt at a love-triangle I have ever seen. Ted walks into the diner he frequents (that Bonnie serves at) and we are supposed to believe he loves her from the 30 seconds the two of them talk to one another. There was clearly not much thought put into this, nor was there any spark between the two. I blame Hobson and his unwelcomed character. Not to mention, Ted’s singing was of the 80’s metal-rock kind, COMPLETELY unfit for the 1930’s score, as he just wailed his lungs out whenever he could.

Yes, Wildhorn’s score suffers from throwing in some random WTF number (every song performed by the preacher and the congregation) in addition to the out-of-place Ted numbers. But the rest of it is not that bad. Sure, some numbers are painfully literal and don’t advance the plot forward (or reveal some character nuance we did not already know). But there are enough great ones (with one or two standouts) that justify a cast recording…and thankfully, I got my wish!

"Check out my abs, Bonnie"
"Mine are better."
Let’s talk about not-Stark Sands Jeremy Jordan’s Clyde Barrow. Believe me; I had the claws out for him while I was watching (because he is not Stark Sands) and in hindsight, I was out-of-line. He is actually quite good in a role that is impossible to pull off (powerful voice at times too). All of Clyde’s great numbers and character development from previous productions of Bonnie and Clyde seemed jettisoned for this mess of a douschebag we are supposed to root for now. The problem…he was being scapegoated as the show’s relentless villain from the moment we are introduced to him and other times, he really was flat-out dreadful.

From what I gathered from YouTube clips and reviews, Stark Sands had this smarmy charm that justifies Bonnie’s and the audience’ affection for Clyde, even in the face of his manic insanity. That was conspicuously absent from Jordan’s take on the role, but I am convinced that is not his fault. The scene when Clyde gets raped (off-stage) and follows that up by savagely murdering an inmate was painful because of the terrible staging. Unfortunately, there was no recovery after that point; it was all over for Clyde.

Regardless of Clyde’s deficiencies, Laura Osnes’ Bonnie is a whirling dervish of fabulosity in one 1930’s vixen. One of my favorite parts of the show, she captures everything Bonnie was – a vulnerable and delicate wannabe actress/writer who gets corrupted by Clyde – and brings the house down everytime she opens her mouth (or reveals her washboard abs to put everyone, including the guys, to shame).

Her renditions of “How ‘Bout a Dance” and “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad” work on her charisma alone, but she really puts out a pitch-perfect performance. Girlfriend is flawless and you know it to be true…

To add to that, Melissa Van Der Schiff as Blanch Barrow, Clyde’s sister-in-law, was another highlight. She came out of nowhere to stun me with her scenary-chewing character, one that brought a dry sense of humor and heartfelt emotion amidst all the destruction around her. Having to put up with her husband breaking out of and going back to jail, and then following his sidelined mischief into robberies and gun fights is a doozy for any one woman to endure. But you feel every ounce of Van Der Schiff’s heartbreak and disappointment, as well as this blind optimism that everything will get better. Like Estelle Parsons Academy Award victory for Blanche Barrow, Van Der Schiff deserves some supporting actress awards love for her performance. LOVE her!

And what happens when you pair the two lovely ladies together on one number…

You get THAT!  “You Love Who You Love” made me swell up in tears; talk about a beautifully done number.

A shout-out also goes to Claybourne Elder, whom was great as Buck Barrow despite a relatively underwritten role. A darn shame, but so it goes…it is also worth pointing out that Jordan, Osnes and Van Der Schiff, in addition to Elder, are all very nice people in person. I am curious to see what is next for each of them (well, we know one joyful thing that Jordan has coming up).

When it comes down to it, it really is worth seeing Bonnie and Clyde from the few moments of greatness the show manages to achieve, as well as the four leads. Many a show close prematurely due to a lack of quality, and while Bonnie and Clyde was lacking in some areas, it really does not deserve the lament it has been receiving and should of had a longer run. Again, one of the more newer shows that was a little underwhelming…anddd off with its head. Meanwhile, I am sure Chicago with its 10th rate, stunt-cast is as riveting as ever.

As an aside, Bonnie and Clyde, in addition to Lysistrata Jones and Godspell, was the hot topic on the first episode of “The NRNW Show” on Blog Talk Radio. Yes, I just went there and have decided to throw in a radio show as per my social media takeover.

You know what…not too shabby. I had no idea how hard it is to just speak unscripted, on-air and with no feedback or anything to indicate I was doing a good or bad job. Not to mention, my mind was all over the place (clearly) and could not remember things like Meryl Streep’s movie that also starred Hunter Parrish (It’s Complicated) or Morgan James’ number in Godspell (“Turn Back, O Man”). Also, working the studio controls proved to be a little difficult, as is checking Twitter, Facebook and such while speaking.

But…I am glad to see some people tuned in and my first caller was the sweet and lovely Michelle. I seriously have to learn how to balance having a guest, a phoner plus addressing the listening audience (c’mon, how awkward did I sound and what the hell was coming out of my mouth)…On-Air Radio Talent + Technical Directing is basically one large multi-task. Thankfully, Michelle has some brilliant things to say and wonderful input…any mention of Shoshanna Bean or Idina Menzel gets two thumbs up from me.

No comments: