BonnieClydeshow

 

New Line Theatre kicks off its 24th season with – the still relatively new musical – Bonnie & Clyde. I use the term, “relatively new” seeing how the show debuted in La Jolla, California back in 2009. It eventually made it to Broadway in 2011 but only lasted for a short time. It has since traveled to places such as South Korea and London and now debuts here in St. Louis.

 

The script, written by Ivan Menchell, focuses on the lives of legendary gangsters, Bonnie Parker (Larissa White) and Clyde Barrow (Matt Pentecost).

 

The story takes place during the Great Depression. Bonnie, a diner waitress dreams of making it big in the movies. Her path crosses with Clyde who just happened to bust out of jail with his brother, Buck (Brendan Ochs). The two strike up an instant chemistry. Bonnie tells Clyde how she wants to be a movie star and a singer and he promises to make their dreams come true if she runs away with him.

 

But there is a fly in the ointment – Ted (Reynaldo Arceno), is a local police officer who has his eyes set on capturing Bonnie's heart as he searches for fugitives Clyde and Buck.

 

Buck's wife, Blanche (Sarah Porter), convinces him to turn himself back into the authorities so they may start their lives anew once he serves his time.

 

Clyde will hear no talk of turning himself in and dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Al Capone.

 

Clyde is eventually caught by the authorities. While serving his sentence, he and Bonnie fall deeper in love. He convinces her to help him bust out of jail by getting him a gun he had stashed away at a gas station. She gets him the gun and he once again busts out of jail.

 

The second acts highlights how Clyde starts his crime spree, dragging Bonnie into the mix much to her dislike. Once the money starts flowing, the two get bolder with each robbery, eventually turning into celebrities thanks to poems Bonnie sends to the papers. As with most stories of ill-fated lovers, each character is forced to deal with their fate and the repercussion of their actions.

 

From start to finish Bonnie & Clyde is an engrossing story. You can't help but root for the villains as the story unfolds from the perspective of two lovers.

 

Pentecost in the role of Clyde was simply fantastic. The actor simply charmed his way into the audience's heart. Sporting a killer smile, Pentecost gaveBonnieClydeposter a completely genuine performance. While I was engaged by his acting skills, his singing is what impressed me the most. The man has an amazing voice. His performance was just one of the many high points in this production.

 

White, as Bonnie, was another one of the high points. Equally charming as her counterpart, this talented actress has stage appeal. Vocally, she delivered a very compelling performance. One of the best performances of the entire show was when White sang, “How 'Bout A Dance.”

 

While I felt some of her speaking parts were delivered a bit out of character, overall her wide-eyed delivery was fun to watch. The chemistry between her and Pentecost was undeniable. Both lead actors should be commended for a job well done.

 

Nearly stealing the show was Porter in the role Blanche.

 

Delivering each of her lines dripping with Southern charm, the only thing missing was the adage, “bless her heart.” But it was there – you could hear it in her voice. From a comedic standpoint, Porter knocked it out of the park. Vocally, I adored her performance of “Now That's What You Call a Dream.” This actress is one to watch St. Louis.

 

While there weren't any bad performances in this production there were a couple that left me wanting more.

 

Ochs, as Buck turned in a strong acting performance, but his vocals seemed to get lost when coupled with the others. Conversely, I was very impressed with Arceno's vocal delivery – especially in “You Can Do Better Than Him,” but his acting delivery felt a bit rushed.

 

While the large cast worked well with one another, I must give a nod to Zachary Allen Farmer in the role of Preacher. Farmer took me to church with his soulful vocals in “God's Arms Are Always Open.” This man was born to sing – you could feel it in his performance.

 

Technically, the show fired on all cylinders. Scenic and Lighting Director Rob Lippert did an outstanding job creating an environment that was engaging and enjoyable to watch.

 

Costume designers Sarah Porter (yes, the same one that played Blanche) and Marcy Wiegert did a fabulous job in making the costumes appealing while paying homage to the time period. I think they used every shade of brown, but they made sure every player looked sharp.

 

Can I tell you how much I love and respect live music in a production? The New Line Band delivered a top notch performance. My hat is off to the conductor, and piano player of the band, Jeffrey Richard Carter.

 

My only critique of the band is I wish the drummer would have been more forceful with the rim shot which served as gun shots throughout the production.

 

Lastly, congratulations to directors, Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy. This is not a typical musical and had several moving parts. I may have initially questioned why some things were done the way they were – like why leave a “dead” body on stage for an extra scene – but in the end, it didn't matter. This production was fascinating to watch as it unfolded.

 

Were there a few blips in the production? Yes. Was there an occasional sound issue? Yes. It would be easy for me to take a shot at those small issues, but overall the performances were powerful - and that is why I love live theater. When a production of this caliber can make me care less about playoff baseball, that is saying something.

 

Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of Bonnie & Clyde for carrying on the tradition of New Line's Theatre's reputation for being the “bad boy of musical theater.”

 

Bonnie & Clyde runs through October25th. For times and ticket prices, visit newlinetheater.com

  

You can follow me on Twitter @ ReviewerJim!

 

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