Tuesday, August 09, 2016

New company, Studio 18, catches Seattle premiere: musical Bonnie and Clyde

Cast of Bonnie and Clyde (Ashley Joncas)
Bonnie and Clyde
Studio 18 Productions
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through August 13, 2016

How to Mount a Production of a New Musical When You’ve Never Produced a Show Yourselves: I guess the answer is: “Be Studio 18 Productions!” Somehow, the young folks (Matt Lang and Alia Collins-Friedrichs) heading up this effort to bring the Seattle premiere of Bonnie and Clyde (the musical) to town found a way to get the rights, get a highly sought after venue (12th Avenue Arts) and a stupendous cast for this effort, and they pulled it all together!

Bonnie and Clyde debuted on Broadway in 2011 and is written by Frank Wildhorn (music), Don Black (lyrics) and Ivan Menchell (book). The show did not do very well and only lasted a month before closing. It is, of course, based on the lives of the infamous duo who lived, loved, and robbed in Texas, destined to die in a hail of bullets. Laura Osnes originated the role and she probably was able to elevate the production by force of will.

A local claim to fame, if you will, is that local musical theater performer, Louis Hobson, originated the Broadway role of Ted Hinton. Ted Hinton, whether real or fictional is unknown, is a young lawman who falls in love with Bonnie, who never does really love him. In this local production, Randall Scott Carpenter is one of the standout performers as Ted.

Another standout is Kate E. Cook, a new transplant from Arizona who wows as Blanche Barrow, Buck Barrow’s wife and sister-in-law to robber-turned-murderer Clyde. Kate’s performance eclipses even other strong performers and you should keep an eye out for her. I understand she’ll be seen in Village Theatre’s Singing in the Rain.

And another name to keep in mind is Victoria Rosser. One of the standouts in Sound Theatre Company’s Parade in the spring, I look forward to a role that brings her powerhouse vocals front and center.

The leads, Jasmine Jean Sim as Bonnie and Zack Summers as Clyde, acquit themselves well, as does Brian Pucheu as Buck. Pucheu has an amazing voice and, unfortunately, this role didn’t show it off. It did show his acting range. Sim and Summers had good chemistry, a crucial element to the show.

Most of the problems with the show are in the choice of material and the execution (oops, pun unintended) of its music, primarily. I know lauding “bad guys” is a “thing” these days, on tv and movies, too, but why are these two people so compelling that they deserve a musical? The musical skirts the idea that they’re worth a psychological examination into how they sought fame and fortune illegally, but the book does not make a compelling presentation. Also, the music, a blend of rockabilly and standard musical fare, does not impress. In fact, the second act ends with SIX reprises and one of the reprises is a SECOND reprise!!!! Seriously, the songs weren’t that great to begin with, so why do we need ‘em over again?

The lyrics are pretty good though, overall. One of the best songs is sung by Blanche to Buck – “You’re Goin Back to Jail” – and reflects a humor that ends up lacking in the rest of the script. If more of the show would make fun of these killers, it might actually have had longer “legs” than it did.

Kudos to this young company in their success so far, and it’s great that musical theater lovers can see this show on its feet, live. It’s only two weekends long, so you’ll need to be quick or you’ll miss it.

For more information, go to http://www.studio18productions.org/ or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2569202 or call 800-838-3006.