Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:
Kokandy Productions Presents the Chicago Premiere of
BONNIE & CLYDE
August 27 – October 15, 2017 at Theater Wit
**Run time 2 hours 20 minutes including 15 min. intermission**
All Photos by Evan Hanover
Bonnie&Clyde (front, l to r) Max DeTogne as Clyde and Desiree Gonzalez as Bonnie with (back, l to r) Tia L. Pinson as Young Bonnie and Jeff Pierpoint as Young Clyde in Kokandy Productions’ Chicago premiere musical BONNIE & CLYDE.
I had the great pleasure of catching the press opening of Bonnie & Clyde at Theater Wit on Saturday, and I was wowed by the vocal chops of the entire cast. With a live band comprised of fiddle, guitar, keyboard, and percussion, and a southern rockabilly, blues, and gospel infused score, the scene is set for a stellar new take on this familiar tale. I was particularly intrigued by the double casting of Bonnie & Clyde as their childhood selves around age 10/12, along with their young adult, outlaw personas. The younger selves not only opened the show, but reappeared on stage and sang with their older versions in an effective visual and auditory reminder of childhood hopes and dreams gone awry.
Though billed as a musical play rather than a musical, spoken lines are sparse and there are dozens of duets, that strengthen the characters' relationships with one another as much as they advance the plot. Set during the desperate times of The Great Depression, the foreclosures, destitution, and lack of options among the Texas townspeople could just as easily have happened today. The placating preacher peddling the placebo of religion, could also be believably set in this millennium.
The lighting design, with ominous foreshadowing of prison stripes, between the Barrow brothers' first prison break and subsequent arrests, and later as Buck contemplates rejoining his brother and returning to a life of crime, was eerily effective.
It's easy to see the allure of violence and crime, to those who have nothing and little to lose. With cops literally out to get them since childhood, for crimes real and imagined, Clyde and his brother, Buck, rightfully feel they have limited options. With a charming grin, a lead foot, and the invincibility of youth, Clyde was nearly irresistible to Bonnie, a young girl with big aspirations, desperate to get outta town, and longing for adventure. Bonnie and Clyde reveled in the infamy and press exposure as much as the material gain, and that's readily apparent in this production.
Through catchy, upbeat tunes and romantic ballads, the audience is swept up in the love stories of the doomed Barrow brothers and their respective wife and lover. Even after a trail of carnage and crime, these folk heroes were then and are still sympathetic characters today. It's amusing to me, in a dark way, that Bonnie signed autographs for admiring fans during bank robberies and finally achieved her childhood dreams of publishing her poetry and becoming a household name, though not as a silver screen starlet in Hollywood, as she'd hoped.
The Kokandy cast makes excellent use of the intimate Theater Wit main stage, with multiple levels and playing spaces and clever, minimalist props like the "vehicle" above, made from headlights and a metal rail. The soaring choruses and verses of this scintillating score more than fill the space and make the show's nearly two and a half hours fly by. Highly recommended.
Tickets: Regular run $33 - $38.
Sunday, September 3 – Sunday, October 15, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will be added matinee performances on Saturday, September 30 at 3 pm, Saturday, October 7 at 3 pm and Saturday, October 14 at 3 pm.
Tickets are currently available at www.kokandyproductions.com, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office.
Book by Ivan Menchel
Music by Frank Wildhorn, Lyrics by Don Black
Directed by Spencer Neiman
Music Direction by John Cockerill
Choreography by Aubrey Adams
BONNIE & CLYDE will feature Desiree Gonzalez as Bonnie, Max DeTogne as Clyde, Missy Wise as Blanche and Cisco Lopez as Buck. The cast also includes Patrick Tierney as Ted, Nathan Carroll as Preacher, Tia L. Pinson as Young Bonnie, Jeff Pierpoint as Young Clyde and Sarah Hayes as Emma, with an ensemble including Brittney Brown, Erin Creighton, Ann Delaney, Jacob Fjare, Jon Patrick Penick, Maisie Rose and Jonathan Schwart.
BONNIE & CLYDE centers on real-life Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the ill-fated lovers and outlaws whose story has been infamous since they achieved folk hero status at the height of the Great Depression. Fearless, shameless and alluring, the Tony Award-nominated musical from the legendary Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, Civil War, Dracula) is the electrifying story of love, adventure and crime that captured the attention of an entire country, with a non-traditional score featuring blues, gospel and rockabilly music.
The world premiere of BONNIE & CLYDE was presented at La Jolla Playhouse in 2009, and transferred to Broadway in 2011. There, it was nominated for three Outer Critics Circle Awards and five Drama Desk Awards (both including Best New Musical), as well as two 2012 Tony Awards nominations.
About Kokandy Productions
Kokandy Productions seeks to leverage the heightened reality of musical theater to tell complex and challenging stories with a focus on contributing to the development of Chicago-based musical theater works while raising the profile of Chicago’s storefront musical theater community. Kokandy Productions is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable organization.
The company's artistic staff is comprised of John D. Glover (Artistic Producer), Allison Hendrix (Producing Artistic Director) and Scot T. Kokandy (Executive Producer).
For additional information, visit www.kokandyproductions.com.