Saturday, September 5, 2015

theatre review - BONNIE & CLYDE - Actor's Youth Theatre

Joey Grado and Adyson Nichols
Photo: Lisa Webb / Southwest Shots Photography

Click here for more information on this production that runs through September 12th.

"The 2011 musical Bonnie & Clyde didn't last long on Broadway. That's a shame, as it is a throwback to Broadway musicals of the past in that it isn't based on a movie and wasn't a revival. It is simply a new musical, based on real people, with a good score, a clear book with period perfect dialogue, and well-crafted book scenes that naturally flow into and out of the songs. So it's nice to see that Actors Youth Theatre has decided to present the Arizona premiere of this unsuccessful Broadway musical to give Valley audiences a change to see the relatively new show. AYT's production features two teenagers giving smashing performances in the lead roles with several impressive supporting performances and clear direction....Frank Wildhorn's score, with lyrics by Don Black, features elements of country, bluegrass, gospel, and blues as well as more traditional musical theatre ballads. ...The book by Ivan Menchell doesn't feature any moment or scene that doesn't add to the overall plot and thrust of the show—every scene is important. There also aren't any unnecessary characters to get in the way of the story. A lot happens in the 2 1/2 hours....Adyson Nichols and Joey Grado are Bonnie and Clyde and they both portray their roles naturally and are very believable as these two famous people. Grado often elicits a roaring growl to his expert singing that underscores the ferocity and anxiety he instills in Clyde...Like Grado, Nichols brings the same passion and desire for finding a life that is different and exciting to Bonnie. She is conflicted in her love for bad boy Clyde and, like Grado, excels with the smartly written dialogue...They both also have very good singing voices and manage their way through the tricky score fairly well, only occasionally being slightly not up to the challenge of the score.  The AYT cast also features Tim Eversole as Clyde's brother Buck and Kayleah Wilson as Buck's wife Blanche. Both are very good. Wilson nicely captures the God-loving woman who also loves her man, even when he is doing wrong. Eversole delivers a fully fleshed out character as well, full of conflict between right and wrong. Kale Burr is Ted, the policeman who has a thing for Bonnie, and he has a nice stage presence, creating a realistic man in charge. He also has a great duet with Grado where they both profess their love for her...My only quibble is with some of the cast's quiet line deliveries; a few need to project more so they can he heard in the back of the audience.  Director Tracie Jones keeps the action moving forward swiftly and has staged the show with a clear purpose...Aurelie Flores' costumes are great period editions and Tom Fitzwater's lighting is atmospheric, full of bright reds that echo the Texas heat and the fiery passion of our leads.  The one big obstacle that Bonnie & Clyde has is that its two main characters are ones who you don't naturally want to root for. They are cold-blooded killers after all. But...the musical is wisely focused on how the characters got to be who they are along with their devoted relationships with their families. The musical doesn't excuse them for what they did or try to explain why they did what they did...In the end you may not want to like them but with the charisma of the characters and understanding somewhat of the desperation they feel, you end up feeling for them.  Bonnie & Clyde is a dark story based on real characters with plenty of murders to remind us of how bloody and real the story is, but there are also many moments of humor and humanity too. AYT doesn't shy away from the adult aspects of the plot and, with impressive performances from Grado and Nichols and clear, precise direction, delivers a winning production."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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