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Friday
May242019

Market Theatre Bonnie & Clyde Bold, Ambitious

By Paul Hyde/Anderson Observer

The Market Theatre Company is nothing if not bold and ambitious.

As many Upstate theaters go for the familiar and safe, the Market Theatre goes for broke.

That’s certainly true of the theater’s dynamic production of “Bonnie & Clyde” that opened last week and continues through June 2.Photo Escobar Photography

There’s risk in presenting a big but lesser-known show for the first time in the Upstate. (This production may be a South Carolina premiere, too.) But the gamble pays off, thanks to an appealing musical score and an attractive, strong-voiced cast.

The story is part of American folklore: Bonnie and Clyde, two restless young Texans, find love and adventure by becoming outlaws in Depression-era America.

The show traces the two from their starry-eyed youth, with Clyde idolizing Al Capone and Billy the Kid, and Bonnie more innocently longing to be movie star Clara Bow, the “It Girl.” For both Bonnie and Clyde, fame is their ticket out of dirt-poor drudgery.

Later, robbing banks and stores – and killing a few people along the way – Bonnie and Clyde become folk heroes, a symbol of resistance to an American system (fat cats, the church and government) that had abandoned a desperate, starving populace. 

For a story of mayhem and murder, Ivan Menchell’s book also offers flashes of surprising humor – as when Bonnie and Clyde bicker over who deserves top billing in their illegal exploits.

Frank Wildhorn, best known for “Jekyll and Hyde,” created an eclectic score for “Bonnie & Clyde” that encompasses jazz, blues, gospel, country-western, rockabilly and pop-style power ballads.

Director Dalton Cole brings focus, clarity and momentum to the Market Theatre production. Caitlin Browne provides the lively choreography.  

Mariel Zmarzly and Matt Groves, as Bonne and Clyde, make a fetching couple of young bandits, negotiating Wildhorn’s sometimes high-flying songs with ease. They’re young actors, a reminder that Bonnie and Clyde were barely out of their teens when they embarked on their criminal careers.

Zmarzly caresses the suave ballad “How ’Bout A Dance” and soars on the heart-tugging “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad,” the latter a pop Liebestod in which Bonnie imagines the lovers dying together.  

Groves is an affable outlaw, brimming with swaggering self-confidence and cutting loose on rousing uptempo numbers like “Raise a Little Hell.”

The opulent-voiced Lauren Renner is a standout as Blanche Barrow, Clyde’s sister-in-law. When Renner joins with Zmarzly for the tear-jerker “You Love Who You Love” – about fateful romance – it’s an episode of musical theater transcendence.

Jonathan Long plays Clyde’s brother, Buck Barrow, with gusto, sturdy in voice and stage presence.

Camila Escobar glows with charisma as the Young Bonnie. Gregory Middleton brings restless energy to the role of Young Clyde.

Cam Johnston does a fine turn as Ted, a cop hankering after Bonnie but unable to compete with the roguish appeal of Clyde.

Ken Thomason, as the Preacher, leads the chorus in the spirited “God’s Arms Are Always Open.”

The production features a solid ensemble of more than a dozen. Joshua VanderVeen is responsible for the tight musical preparation.

The production uses recorded music that serves the production well.

One caveat: Don Black’s lyrics could be more crisply articulated throughout the show.

Theater-goers should note: The dialogue includes some strong language.

For tickets to the Market Theatre’s compelling production of “Bonnie & Clyde,” call 864-729-2999 or visit the website the www.marketanderson.org.

Paul Hyde, a longtime Upstate journalist, writes about the arts for the Anderson Observer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

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