Thursday September 21st 2017

“Bonnie & Clyde” the Musical

 Often I am asked “how can you see the same show more than once?”. My answer is always “every production is different from the previous. A new cast and different director can make all the difference in the world.” These words became true tonight,as I viewed the opening (and the Chicago premiere) of “Bonnie & Clyde” the Musical on the stage at Theater Wit. Despite not having seen the original, this  production proves that a new director and cast can change the feeling and the fullness of a play. A show that had its world premiere back in 2009 in California and over the next few years prepared it for the Broadway stage, “Bonnie & Clyde” the Musical was predicted to be the next major hit. On December 1st, 2011 they opened on Broadway and on December 30th, they closed! Yes, this is something that takes place in the world of “Musical Theater”, more often than the producers would like .

Now, this Chicago production, presented by  Kokandy Productions, a company that has a way of making silk out of a sows ear, when it comes to old musicals, under the amazing direction of Spencer Neiman, has given this musical, new life! Not just new life, but new energy making the book (Ivan Menchel), the music (Frank Wildhorn) and the lyrics (Don Black) sound very fresh and allowing the audience to see and hear the story that was that of real-life Bonnie Parker ( played to absolute perfection by Desiree Gonzalez) and Clyde Barrow ( an amazing performance by Max DeTonge), the ill-fated lovers who became outlaws during the Great Depression. They also became “folk heroes”, despite what they did, which was rob banks!. The great depression was a time where the public needed to find something to cling to, good or bad, and until the time that Clyde shot a deputy, their status was that of fun-loving people who just needed to live ( and to the average Joe, probably could not find a job!).

In this 2 hour-25-minute musical (with one intermission), we meet young Bonnie (Tina L. Pinson, who takes on several other characters as an ensemble member) and young Clyde (  deftly handled by Jeff Pierpoint) as they speak about their desires, dreams and wishes. As it turns out, they get what they asked for. The story begins with Bonnie & Clyde being “gunned down” and then flashing back to how it all came to be! The production moves very fast and is filled with music that is designed to tell the story and propel it for the audience to easily follow. The music is a combination of “Blues”, “Rockabilly” and “Gospel”. It works, but may have not been the right time for the “uppity” New York theater crowd. After all, Chicago audiences are much better!

While both Bonnie and Clyde are strong characters, it is truly an ensemble piece. Clyde had a brother , Buck (Cisco Lopez does a splendid job) and sister-in-law, Blanche ( the delightful Missy Wise). Buck wanted to go straight in order to have a normal life with his wife, and dreamed of having Clyde so the same. The balance of the production is very reliant on the strength of the ensemble players, who all handle  a multitude of roles: JacobFjare, Ann Delany, Erin Creighton, Nathan Carroll (what a powerhouse he is), Brittney Brown, Patrick Tierney, Tessa Dettman, Matthew Johnston, Justin Tepper, Maisie Rose, Jonathan Schwart, Jon Patrick Penick and Chicago favorite Sarah Hayes.

John Cockerill is the music director and conductor and with his three musicians, Simeon Tsanev, Ceasar Romero and Mark Linley truly fill the theater with wonderful sounds. While we may never hum or even remember a word of the songs, we will remember the experience of hearing the beautiful sounds that emanated from each cast member and the band- wow! The music was exciting and with the choreography of Aubrey Adams along with the “violence and intimacy” choreography by Jaq Seifert we are never bored!

The set (Ashley Ann Woods) allows us to see many different places with very little in the way of time spent in transition. This allows the director and actors to keep the flow moving along. The audience never misses a beat! Robert S, Kuhn’s costumes were solid, but I think one or two suits were a bit modern. The sound (Michael J. Patrick) is a perfect example of doing it right- we heard every word, and the lighting (Alexander Ridgers) and props (Devon Green) were perfect as well. Overall, Kokandy and  its staff continues to bring us quality musical theater that tells the audience complex and challenging stories.  This is one you should see!”Bonnie & Clyde” will continue at Theater Wit thru October 15th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  8 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  8 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

EXTRA shows  Saturday, September 30th  3 p.m., Saturday, October 7th and 14th at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $33-$38 and can be purchased by calling 773-975-8150, in person at the box office of Theater Wit 1229 West Belmont Avenue or online at www.kokandyproductions.com

Parking is not always easy on Belmont, but valet parking is available.

To see what others are saying, visit  http://www,theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at ” Bonnie & Clyde”.

This production proves tha if you put the pieces in the right place, the puzzle is solved. Thanks Kokandy!

 

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