Bonnie and Clyde ride again in Concord


by Mark Sardella (Wakefield Daily Item)

“It’s not often a community theater gets the opportunity to produce the New England premier production of a Broadway musical,” says former longtime Wakefield resident Nancy Curran Willis.

curran-willisShe is directing the New England premier of Bonnie and Clyde at The Umbrella Community Arts Center in Concord, Mass. The music for the show was written by Frank Wildhorn, who is best known for his musical Jekyll & Hyde, which ran four years on Broadway. Wildhorn also wrote Whitney Houston’s number one hit, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?”

During its Broadway run, critics and audiences agreed that the strength of “Bonnie and Clyde” is Wildhorn’s music (with lyrics by Don Black). There is some spoken dialog in the show, but the familiar story of America’s most famous outlaw couple is told primarily through songs with titles like “Picture Show,” “This World Will Remember Me,” “Raise a Little Hell” and “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad.”

In the Umbrella production, the eight principal cast members are joined by 17 additional players who form choruses and play smaller roles, rounding out the cast of 25.

Director Nancy Curran Willis has directed both community theater and professional theater, and she brings a professional touch to all of her shows. “Bonnie and Clyde” is no exception, as Willis has once again assembled an outstanding cast with exceptional singing voices. Of particular note is Ashleigh Vittum, the 7th grader who plays young Bonnie. Her big voice is all the more impressive coming from one so young.

clyde_bathGrowing up dirt poor in a section of West Dallas known as “The Devil’s Back Porch,” young Bonnie and Clyde can only dream of a way out.

In the opening song, “Picture Show,” young Bonnie dreams of growing up and going to Hollywood and having her picture on all the magazine covers.

I can see me, can you see me?
The main attraction at the picture show
Like Clara Bow.

Meanwhile, young Clyde, (played by Owen Reimold) sings about his own ambitions.

I wanna live the life of an outlaw.
I’m gonna be like Billy the Kid.
And when the law has got me surrounded,
No doubt, I’m gonna shoot my way out.

Sean Crosley, who plays the adult Clyde, looks like a cross between the real-life Clyde Barrow and Warren Beatty who played the gangster in the 1967 movie opposite Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie.

clyde_buckClyde made his criminal bones stealing cars and, in “When I Drive,” a duet with brother and fellow gang member Buck Barrow (Tim McShea), they sing of Clyde’s love of the open road.

Ain’t no car too smart for me / Got the whole thing figured out
Two door, hard top, model-t / Limousine or runabout…

Ain’t no car that you can’t drive / I would bet my life on that
Hot rod, roadster, pickup truck / 40 miles in nothing flat.

Meanwhile, Clyde’s moll, Bonnie (Sarah Cowell) and Buck’s wife, Blanche (Sarajane Morse Mullins) can’t help their love of bad boys, as they sing in “You love Who You Love.”

I know my heart. Don’t care what people say. / All I know is that I never felt like this.
And besides, I wouldn’t change him if I could. / No man’s all good.

I always knew what I was takin’ on. / But I always felt that I could change his ways.
Even if my man will never fall in line / Glad he’s mine.

Rounding out the principal cast are David Rodrigues as Texas Ranger Ted Hinton and Nate Ramsayer as The Preacher.

There is some spoken dialog in “Bonnie and Clyde,” but not much. It’s just as well. The strength of the show is its soaring live music (under the direction of Musical Director Ben DiScipio), which blends styles from country-western, gospel, blues and pop.

Curran makes very effective use of projected historical newsreels, photographs, and newspaper headlines to set the background and fill in the story. Brian Boruta’s gritty set consists of walls constructed of weathered wooden boards and rusted sheet-metal made to look like Depression-era Texas.

Growing up in Wakefield, Nancy Curran Willis came by her theater roots naturally. Her parents, Charles and Gladys Sturtevant, were founding members of the Quannapowitt Players and Nancy has directed many plays at the Quannapowitt Playhouse.

Professionally, she received the Elliot Norton Award (Boston’s equivalent of the Tony) for Outstanding Director in 2008 for Boston Theater Works’ production of Angels in America. She also directed BTW’s Elliot Norton Award-winning production of The Laramie Project.

With the Umbrella’s production of Bonnie and Clyde, you get a professional quality production of a Broadway musical at a fraction of what you’d pay in New York City. It’s well worth the much shorter trip to Concord Mass.

Bonnie and Clyde runs through Nov. 22 at The Umbrella, 49 Stow St., Concord, Mass. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Purchase tickets online or phone 978-371-0820.

{Bonnie and Clyde. Directed by Nancy Curran Willis. Produced by Brian Boruta. Musical Director, Ben DiScipio. Lighting Design, SeifAllah Cristobal. Scenic Design, Brian Boruta. Sound Design, Alex Savitsky. Costume Design, Brian Simons. Stage Manager, Cathie Regan. Properties Manager, MaryEllen Pastor.}

Photos by Meghan Donnelly.

[This review originally appeared in the November 11, Wakefield Daily Item.]

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