“You’ve read the story of Jesse James
of how he lived and died.
If you’re still in need
of something to read,
here’s the story of Bonnie and Clyde.”
This is the opening verse of a long poem written by Bonnie Parker, which has been copied and inserted into the theater programs for this month’s lively Town Hall Arts Center production, “Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical,” which runs through March 19.
A series of worn-looking wooden platforms are backed by a flat, weathered wooden wall backdrop — it might be a barn or an old farmhouse, and it serves really well as a screen for projection that play a part. The musical first played in La Jolla, California in 2009 and made its way to Broadway in December 2011 for a short run.
Director Nick Sugar gives the Town Hall audience a colorful look at the pair of 1930’s legendary young robbers — and killers — who might compare to some less than admirable types who make it into today’s TV reality shows. They crave excitement and fame as they crash across the landscape.
Tim Howard (Clyde Barrow) and Ellen Kaye (Bonnie Parker) bring solid voices and stage skills to the lead parts while Lars Lundberg and Rebecca Hyde make early appearances as young Clyde and Bonnie, giving a hint of the years to come.
Chas Lederer and Alison Mueller play Clyde’s brother Buck and his religious wife Blanche, who traveled with the poetry-writing Bonnie and Clyde, according to historic accounts, although in this telling, the pious Blanche stays home running a beauty shop.
Bonnie and Clyde were delighted to see their names in print! “I’m gonna be like Al Capone,” Clyde Barrow boasted, while Bonnie Parker was beyond thrilled to read a magazine reference to her “ravishing red hair.” Projections of newspaper reports on their crime spree and some historic photographs play a part on the wooden wall as the pair runs amuck — and regularly heads home to see their parents.
Neither is pictured with any regrets for the lives they ended. The focus was on fast cars, big guns and money. (They gave some of their stolen money away to poor folks and became heroes to some as they ranged across the country robbing small stores, gas stations and an occasional bank.)
But the stage version gives us a pleasing combination of rockabilly, gospel and blues music by Frank Wildhorn, with a live stage band, lyrics by Don Black and book by Ivan Menchell that paint a more appealing picture of a short period in the 1930s before they were surrounded and shot on May 23, 1934 in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
One of many cleverly integrated projections is a newspaper headline detailing their demise.
Bonnie’s poem ends:
“Some day they’ll go down together
they’ll bury them side by side.
To few it’ll be grief,
to the law a relief,
but it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”
If you go
“Bonnie and Clyde” runs through March 19 at Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St. in downtown Littleton. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: townhallartscenter.org, 303-794-2787, ext. 5.