“Bonnie and Clyde” the musical seems like it must be a spoof about two of America’s most notorious criminals. One pictures the two infamous robbers exchanging love ballads to the rhythm of staccato racket of machine guns. Summer Rep’s show passes on the sensationalistic opportunity to examine the backgrounds and motivations of these two lovers during the Depression.
Unlike the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway film that relied on the sensationalized violence, the musical puts the spotlight on the dreams and desires that set Bonnie (Jamie Goodson) and Clyde (Cameron Blakely) on their destructive route rather than on their blazing shootouts. That doesn’t mean the musical omits the action scenes.
The lyrics tell the story and reveal the dreams that turn into nightmares for Bonnie, Clyde and their victims. “Picture Show” presents the lovers, Bonnie and Clyde, as young adults aspiring to fame, fortune and excitement. A nice touch to the scene, the appearance of the children, Bonnie (Evie Goodwin, Annie in last December’s 6th Street Playhouse production) and Clyde (Liev Bruce-Law, recently Dill in “To Kill a Mockingbird”) implies that the adult Bonnie and Clyde have childish aspirations. Bonnie idolized Clara Bow, the “It” girl, and Clyde saw himself as a modern romantic version of Billy the Kid.
The second song, “This World Will Remember Me,” shows the determination of both characters to attain fame, even if it is achieved through notoriety along some destructive path. The reprise of this song concludes the first act and underscores the ambition of Bonnie and Clyde to be remembered.
Seven other song reprisals center the focus on dreams, aspirations and ambitions rather than on the cold-blooded nature of these two murderers. “What was Good Enough for You” points to the classic desire for children to not settle for what parents had. “Picture Show” demonstrates a propensity of Americans to use the movies to set standards and find superficial role models. Repetitions of all of these songs mark the failure of growth for Bonnie and Clyde.
All of the performers convey a sense of the Depression Era, especially of dusted out panhandle America. Director James Newman led actors to portray characters with a mild Texas accent and to tone down rather than exaggerate the dramatic moments. The production achieved a black-and-white reality.
Music Director Jane Best led an eight-person orchestra to support the singing that did not spiral the show into a mockery of the real story but supported the quest for adventure, the dream seeking. Every performer had his or her opportunity in song and each delivered smoothly. The Preacher (Ben Hardin) provided some of the best musical moments.
Scenic Designer Sarah Beth Hall and Costume Designer Megan Richardson met the challenge to create the atmosphere of the 1930s. Hall took advantage of the theater in the round by keeping props to a minimum and utilizing them for a variety of staging needs. An old trunk, for example, doubles for the body of a car. Suitcases become seats. And when not being used directly, many of these objects surround the circular stage adding to the ambiance. Richardson’s costumes provide a historical sense of the Depression Era panhandle. The ladies model hairstyles of the 20s and 30s.
Lighting Designer Joseph Beumer keeps the audience’s attention focused on the action and allows for much scene changing in the dark areas. Anna Alex, Sound Designer, creates a sense of action to alternate with the musical presentations.
“Bonnie and Clyde” runs through August 8. Ticket information: 707-527-4307 or www.SummerRep.com.