Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Bonnie and Clyde, The Musical at San Jose Stage

So many conflicting things to say about this. Let's start with why I went:
The very talented Cliff McCormick is playing Clyde. Cliff played Jekyll & Hyde in the Palo Alto production I was in, 7 years ago. He was great to work with, did the very difficult part justice, strong voice and great control. The ultimate professional while still being fun to work with. Also, the music for B&C is by Frank Wildhorn, who wrote the music for J&H. I auditioned for J&H because I fell in love with the score.

About the tech: This production is done on a bare stage with a few random platforms leading up to a cinema-size silver screen lashed to a frame with rope through a series of large grommets. Very rustic. All through the show, projections on the screen provide the background scenery, except at the start and a few times during the show when they play video of the children who are young Bonnie and young Clyde. The actual children never appear, even their curtain call is recorded. Especially at the start, but not so much later in the show, the projection video hands off to the live actor(s) coming out from the wings. The good news is when done well, this is very impressive. The bad news is the poor quality of the projection sabotaged the effect, and sometimes the timing was off as well. Other tech - the follow spots are atop ladders built against the wall, and the operators sit behind them. Very uncomfortable, and awkward.

About the acting: I didn't recognize Cliff. He's a Facebook friend, I have seen him in concert since J&H a couple of times with one of the women Hyde kills (they were an item, at least professionally, for a couple of years), so I was very surprised that I had to read the bio in the program to be sure it was him. He shaved his beard and hit the gym for this show, and put on a Texas accent as well. Allison F. Rich, playing Bonnie, was very good, but I was totally stunned by Clyde's sister in law Blanche, played by Halsey Varady. Her bio says she has played almost every leading lady in SJ Stage's history. Frankly, I think she would have made the better Bonnie. Rich is a tall leggy blonde, Varady is very petite - more like Bonny Parker IRL. Rich was also the music director, which is interesting because her intonation was off all night. Noel Anthony Escobar impressed with his beautiful voice in the preacher role, and his convincing switch to the sheriff. Again, had to check the program to see it was the same guy. Weak point was the cop in love with Bonnie, Ted Hinton, played by Michael Doppe, who struggled with words and notes and what key he was supposed to be in, and was completely unconvincing as the avenging angel his character is written to be. Also not quite up to the level needed was Will Springhorn, playing Buck, Clyde's brother. Some of that was the script, which changes Clyde's IRL stronger older brother into a henpecked weakling. He did well on the one song in which he was featured.

Also doing well in their one featured song were three women of the ensemble, beauty parlor customers Jill Miller, Courtney Hatcher ands Ashley Garlick. Their number You're Going Back To Jail was one of the few memorable tunes in the show.

Which brings me to the music. In a nutshell, Wildhorn wrote every kind of music he knew, and a few kinds he didn't. Most of the numbers are too long, not tuneful, and Don Black's lyrics seem to have been wedged in sideways. In J&K, Wildhorn had the honor of one of the best in the business, Leslie Bricusse, to work with, and a lot of time to try out the songs. Black is no Bricusse. The cast (and the band) handled the wide ranging music pretty well, McCormick's part was especially challenging.

One thing that did not work for me may be the fault of the script, by Ivan Menchell or director Michael Navarra, or both. This production makes it all about sex. Bonnie and Blanche spend a lot of time in period lingerie, Clyde even does a (tasteful) implied nude scene.

The show runs through July 27, more info at their web site.  
Tags: review, theater

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