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April 18, 2017 > Infamous duo lands at Stage 1

Infamous duo lands at Stage 1

By Julie Grabowski

The notorious names donÕt really need an introduction; most are familiar with the criminal reign of a devoted couple during AmericaÕs Great Depression in the 1930s. With music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black, and book by Ivan Menchell, the musical ÒBonnie & ClydeÓ recounts the short, wild lives of two lovers who defied all rules and laws to make their mark in history.

Waitress Bonnie and farm boy Clyde meet on the side of a road in West Texas, Bonnie with car trouble, Clyde having just broken out of jail with his brother, Buck. They experience an instant connection. With a love of Billy the Kid, Clyde has a definite direction for his life. ÒEverybody has dreams. I have plans,Ó he tells Bonnie. The two share a desire for wealth and fame but wish to acquire it in different ways Ð Clyde through his defiance of the law and Bonnie through a movie screen.

While Bonnie and Clyde are dreaming of a future of freedom and fame, BuckÕs wife, Blanche, convinces him to turn himself in and serve the rest of his sentence as the only way to get right with the Lord and wipe the slate clean. Clyde is upset by his brotherÕs decision, and sticks to his own path of crime. When he gets caught and sentenced to 16 years in prison, Clyde is subjected to repeated physical and sexual abuse that brings him to his breaking point. Enlisting BonnieÕs help, Clyde takes action and sets them on the road of no return.

NewarkÕs Stage 1 Theatre gives audiences a look at the lives behind the legend with their production of ÒBonnie & ClydeÓ showing through April 30. Director Buddy Butler is successful in staging an enjoyable, quick-paced show that captures the multiple facets of its charactersÕ humanity and their struggle to reconcile conflicting wants and feelings. While it is nice to see a more tender side to this familiar story and the unexpected love and devotion to family throughout, it is missing the fire and excitement that one expects from a show with multiple gun-wielding encounters.

Annika Bergman (Bonnie), Sven Schutz (Clyde), Dane Lentz (Buck), and Allie Townsend (Blanche) form a strong core who are fully engaging and carry the story easily. Bergman is a charmer with a lovely voice. Without a trace of the criminal fervor in her partner, she is entirely confident and likable in BonnieÕs It Girl dreams and unshakable love for Clyde. Armed with an impressive voice, Schutz fits the bill as Clyde, displaying an appealing energy with equal parts renegade spirit, devoted son and lover. Bergman and Schutz are a complimentary pair with notable numbers in ÒThis World Will Remember Me,Ó ÒHow ÔBout a Dance,Ó and ÒRaise a Little Hell.Ó

Lentz and Townsend are also a great couple, Lentz's sweet but out-for-a-good-time Buck a nice contrast with the religious wife who tries to rein him in. TownsendÕs Blanche Ð who doesn't pass judgement on others, just states observations and professional opinions Ð is outstanding. SheÕs a hilarious firecracker that lights up every scene she is in and fully embodies the struggle between loving her husband and doing the right thing. Townsend shines in the numbers ÒYouÕre GoinÕ Back to JailÓ and ÒNow ThatÕs What You Call a Dream.Ó

Mary Gimeno delivers a strong and moving performance as BonnieÕs concerned mother, Emma Parker, who warns her daughter Òthe heartÕs not always right.Ó Another notable supporting character can be found in Scott Holladay as officer Ted Hinton who is in love with Bonnie and has difficultly considering her a criminal.

The set design is appealing, conveying the rough and lean times with a simple backdrop of wooden slats with doors that open at the center, and additional slatted entry points at the sides of the stage. Furniture pieces come and go as necessary. Projections are employed with hit and miss success; those appearing in the center opening create a nice touch, while those directed onto the slats are difficult to read and lose effectiveness. This is most disappointing at the end of the show when a news clip projection is relied upon to report the demise of Bonnie and Clyde.

Kudos to costume designer Natalie Barshow who does a wonderful job with the look of the times.

Butler and his cast create a textured and interesting world in ÒBonnie & ClydeÓ that is well worth a visit, and might have you thinking differently about this infamous duo.

Bonnie & Clyde
Friday, Apr 14 Ð Sunday, Apr 30
8:00 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Newark Memorial High School Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd, Newark
(510) 791-0287
Tickets: $25 adults, $22 seniors 62+/college students, $15 youth (17 & under), $20 groups of 12 or more

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