Monday, October 12, 2015

Bonnie & Clyde, Cassidy Theatre

(Madeline Krucek as Bonnie and Tony Heffner as Clyde.)

It kind of makes sense to have a musical starring Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, since those Depression-era felons grew up wanting to be in the spotlight. At least that’s how this show (book by Ivan Menchell, lyrics by Don Black, music by Frank Wildhorn) tells it.

The production at the Cassidy Theatre has some positive elements, including a massive and effectively depressing set built of reclaimed wood, hammered together haphazardly to reflect the times. But the songs too often veer towards the sloppily sentimental, especially near the end (of the musical and of Bonnie and Clyde’s corporeal existence).

This pair of bank robbers and killers (of nine cops and assorted other civilians) flaunted all the rules, including those against open illicit sex, and thus became popular heroes. Some of their victims even asked for their autographs, as happens in one of these scenes. But it’s safe to assume Miss Parker and Mr. Barrow weren’t nearly as introspective as the songs in this show would have you believe.

The musical roughly follows the same track as the famous movie starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, but without all the squirting blood. B&C are immediately attracted to each other, and soon they hit the road committing non-violent robberies until one day Clyde plugs a policeman. Bonnie freaks out but, drawn to Clyde’s animal and sexual magnetism, she stays with him through many more murders until the bitter end.

Unfortunately, any sexual magnetism in this production is less animalistic and more of the refrigerator magnet variety. As Clyde, the very young-looking Tony Heffner rages quite effectively in moments of anger, but he almost disappears at other times. In a similar way, his singing fluctuates from spot on to wildly off-key.

As Bonnie, Madeline Krucek fares much better with the singing, giving songs such as "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" a poignant touch. But she looks far too angelic and suburban-comfortable. Bonnie is a poor girl scrabbling desperately to find a foothold in life, but most of the time Krucek appears like she’s undergoing nothing more stressful than a bad day of mall shopping. Neither Heffner nor Krucek consistently display the raw defiance that leaps off the real photos of Bonnie and Clyde when they are projected on a section of the back wall.

Still, director Kristin Netzband paces the show well in the first act and mounts some arresting scenes. One example is the gospel song “God’s Arms Are Always Open,” in which the ensemble reaches out its hands to God and then finds themselves holding their hands up at the point of Clyde’s gun.

Some of the supporting performers do what they can to keep things moving. David Turner and Rachel Balko add nice counterpoint as Clyde’s brother Buck and his religious wife Rachel. And Joel Fenstermaker as the Preacher sings sweetly at times, while Kim Escut as Bonnie's mom, Georgia Muttillo as Clyde's mom, Megan Polk as Young Bonnie and Christian Thomas as Young Clyde provide some fresh energy.

But the momentum gained early on dissipates quickly the closer we get to the end, making the second act a long slog to what we all know is coming. If the actual Bonnie and Clyde had lived through a similar boring stretch, they might have called it quits and gone into insurance sales.

And theater-lovers remember:
On November3 check the slate,
And vote yes, yes, YES on Issue 8!

Bonnie & Clyde
Through October 25 at the Cassidy Theatre, 6200 Pearl Road, Parma Heights, 440-842-4600.

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