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Bonnie and Clyde are passionate lovers flush with intoxicating fame — until, you know, they are killed

Dyin’ ain’t so bad / Not if we both go together / Only when one’s left behind / Does it get sad / But a short and lovin’ life / A short and lovin’ life / That ain’t so bad — a Bonnie and Clyde duet

Utah audiences love Frank Wildhorn musicals. The Scarlet Pimpernel and Jekyll & Hyde are near the top of the state’s (short) list of often-produced shows.

Nearly unseen is Bonnie and Clyde, despite its revealing book (by a then-musical-theater newcomer Ivan Menchell) and a skillful blend of musical styles — from bluegrass to jazz to gospel — that effectively captures the era, along Wildhorn’s blustery power ballads. On Broadway, Bonnie and Clyde had a short and, by launching to stardom Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan, lovin’ life.

It would only take a committed cast delivering energetic performances in the romanticized storyline for the show to stand tall beside The Scarlet Pimpernel and Jekyll & Hyde. Pioneer Theatre Company’s production easily meets that demand.

With robust vocals as its hallmark, Bonnie and Clyde is passionately staged, and the energetic cast delivers spirited performances. It’d be criminal to miss it.

Alanna Saunders as Bonnie and Michael William Nigro as Clyde.
Photo: BW Productions

Michael William Nigro is every inch Clyde Barrow. He has a smart grasp on the character and is equally adept at an up-tempo country swing tune as he is at a calmly seductive love ballad. Accompanying himself on the ukulele, his “Bonnie” ballad is a delight. Nitpicking, his ardent focus on the drama omits the humor of several witty retorts.

Alanna Saunders makes each of Bonnie’s songs stylistically her own, notably in “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad.” What’s missing in her characterization that is so vividly witnessed in Nigro’s Clyde is the development of small-town hicks to hardened killers. She overcomes the unintentionally horrible schoolmarm wigs she’s asked to wear to become “a ravishing redhead.”

Dan Deluca is appealing as Clyde’s devoted brother, Buck. As Buck’s god-fearing wife, Blanche, Gina Milo has a lovely second-act ballad, “That’s What You Call a Dream.”

Ben Jacoby as Ted Hinton in Bonnie and Clyde.
Photo: BW Productions

A surprise is the golden-throated Ben Jacoby. In the too-small role of Ted Hinton, he shows off a mighty belt of a singing voice and an excellent range of emotion. Ted is immensely conflicted as Bonnie’s wholesome suitor who, as a lawman, ended up in the posse that killed her. Jacoby harmonizes brilliantly with Nigro in “You Can Do Better Than Him.”

The actors are gifted by the perceptive Gerry McIntyre as director/choreographer. The audience first recognizes his accurately measured understanding of the show’s intentions by reading his insightful notes in the playbill.

But there is a misstep. When Bonnie and Clyde died in a hail of bullets, they achieved a kind of immortality largely because of the brutality of their demise. Written into the script is a prologue of the horrific death scene, with Clyde “dead in the front seat with blood covering his face and [Bonnie’s] lifeless head on his shoulder.” Eliminating that opening scene robs empathy for the lovers — and is akin to excising the iceberg from the story of the Titanic.

More information and tickets are available at PioneerTheatre.org

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