There is much to love in Bonnie & Clyde: the Two Person, Six-Gun Musical, which closes out Northern Light Theatre’s 2016/2017 season. After incubating for about a decade in the mind of Director Trevor Schmidt, this “rip-roaring” musical tours through Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s four-year relationship on the PCL Studio Theatre stage until May 21. Bonnie & Clyde: the Two Person, Six-Gun Musical is written by Will Pomerantz, Andrew Herron & Doug Ritchie with music and lyrics by Andrew Herron & Doug Ritchie.
It’s easy to get swept up in the details of the robberies and murders the duo and their posse committed, but what Bonnie & Clyde: the Two Person, Six-Gun Musical (not to be confused with the musical Bonnie & Clyde that recently played on Broadway) focuses on is the intricacies of the relationship between the two young people. We know how it’s going to end, but the beauty of the play is in watching the tragic formation and growth of a relationship we know is doomed from the start. The play positions the two characters as damaged people who don’t just want but need each other to go on.
Bringing the famous romance to life are Amanda Neufeld and Matthew Lindholm, whose undeniable stage chemistry you’ve seen over the years in plays like Hair and Reefer Madness. Trevor cast these two for the show without auditions and it’s easy to see why – these two actors know how to tell a story of epic proportions like this one and work so well together. Amanda and Matthew’s comfort and ability to read the other is so obvious that it makes the onstage relationship between Bonnie and Clyde feel immediately real, and therefore all the more tragic as it plays out in the 80-minute show. Having seen some of their previous work together, I think Amanda and Matthew both have a unique knack for portraying youth who are in circumstances in which they age quicker than they should have to.
Amanda’s Neufeld’s vocal range is showcased to its full extent in this musical, with songs that really allow her to let loose on big powerful ballads. As the character of Bonnie is written as constantly seeking attention from the media and anyone around her, Amanda shines in this production. Matthew Lindholm’s approach to Clyde is slightly more muted, but as Clyde repeats that he feels beaten down by society and therefore worthless, it makes sense that he takes a step back to let Bonnie shine in this production. Musical director Nicolas Samoil plays the piano nearly the entire play, as the sole musical accompaniment to Amanda and Matthew.
I think it would be impossible to walk away from Bonnie & Clyde: the Two Person, Six-Gun Musical without a sense of the tragedy of their story, especially the way their youth was wasted. It seems impossible given the grandeur of the legend of Bonnie and Clyde, but the two died when they were 24 and 25 respectively. With the scale of the myth around the duo and the crimes they committed, it’s easy to forget that we don’t necessarily understand their motivations for leading the life they lived. Bonnie and Clyde’s relationship and crime spree was during the 1930’s depression, so while it’s possible they purposely wanted to lead a life of crime, it’s equally possible – as this musical leans towards – that they were forced into it by the depression, the lack of job prospects they were facing, and the experiences with the law Clyde had prior to meeting Bonnie and resulting search for revenge on a legal system that took so much away from him. Once they started committing crimes, the play points out they reached a point of no return – it would have been impossible, or at least very difficult, for them to start a law-abiding life once the public, the media, and the legal system (by offering a large cash reward for their capture) started creating them into the celebrities they were at the time. This point is driven home through Adam Tsuyoshi Turnbull’s lighting design, which combines with the staging of the show to place the spotlight on the audience at several points in the musical, placing the audience as the public that made Bonnie & Clyde into the celebrities they are today. Throughout the musical, we experience many moments where Bonnie or Clyde or both want to stop committing crimes but don’t for one reason or another, and eventually, they reach a point where they essentially say, “We’re going to hell anyway, we might as well enjoy the ride.”
Bonnie & Clyde: the Two Person, Six-Gun Musical is staged somewhat similarly to Trevor Schmidt & Darrin Hagen’s show Klondykes last year at Theatre Network where for the more intimate songs and solo moments, the actors step out of the action of the scene and sing their feelings directly to the audience. This staging works exceptionally well given the intimate subject matter of the musical and reminds us that the story the show wants to tell is not really about the crime or the celebrity, but a tragic love story between two young people.
Bonnie & Clyde: the Two Person, Six-Gun Musical plays at the PCL Studio Theatre May 4 – 21. Seats in this venue are limited and this show is part of the 2016/2017 Theatre 6 Pack, so it’s recommended you get your tickets early. Tickets are $20 – $30 at the NLT box office.
As usual, Northern Light Theatre is hosting a number of special events in conjunction with this production. See NLT’s website for full details.
- May 9 & 16 @7:30 p.m.: Tuesday 2-for-1 tickets
- May 10, post-show: Guest speaker salon hosted by Colin MacLean (pizza provided by Famoso WEM)
- May 11, post-show: Actor’s talk back
- May 14 @ 1:00 p.m.: Director’s Circle with Trevor Schmidt (snacks provided by Under the Highwheel)