Leads Burn Up Stage in HJT's 'Bonnie and Clyde'

Cape Cod Chronicle
By Amy Tagliaferri
May 17, 2010

The main characters in “Bonnie and Clyde, The Musical” were a dynamic duo to say the least, so it’s only fitting to have a dynamic duo like Caitlin Mills and Troy Armand Barboza portray them. Mills and Barboza sizzle, crackle and pop on the Harwich Junior Theatre stage as the shoot 'em up, bank-robbing, murdering, legendary couple.

Andrew Philip Herron, who wrote the play's music, co-wrote the lyrics and the book said, "Will Pomerantz (co-writer), Doug Ritchie (lyrics) and I wanted to make our 'Bonnie and Clyde' a dynamic performance piece for two talents. We would take everything famous about Bonnie and Clyde - their mythical Robin Hood image - and put it in the background. Instead, we'd serve up two comical and tragic lovers. Our Bonnie and Clyde wouldn't be odd and amazing; they'd be amusingly (frighteningly?) normal (well, except for transcending their station in life by singing kick-butt songs)."

Well, I wish Mr. Herron could have been at HJT on Friday, May 14, to see and hear Mills and Barboza transcend the characters as they performed those kick-butt songs! The chemistry and the energy between these two builds in the first act, and explodes in act two.

The troubling times of the 1930s strike an all-too-familiar chord. The Great Depression has worn people down and driven some to drastic measures. Clyde Barrow is a two-bit thief who is happy to plod along through life one step ahead of the police. He's charming but is basically a man with no future, and he doesn't care. He's not sad though, he's more happy-go-lucky. Good girl Bonnie Parker never knew she craved adventure and "a beautiful car" until she met Barrow and experienced firsthand the thrill of stealing something. Kablam! They were so good and so bad for each other.

Just as their relationship develops from one act to the next, the music improves also. Act two is one spell-binding number after the other, especially "Shoot." The charismatic Mills has a powerful and lovely voice, and shines in every number, and the arresting Barboza grabs the audience with a deep, emotional attachment to every note he sings. Mary Arnault's direction on a minimal set is subtle, yet her finely tuned instincts are evident; just like a good gardener, you water, you prune, you stake them up and then the plants grow and grow. Andrew Arnault's stark set makes the characters all the more colorful. The clever projections of newspaper headlines and the different locales, credited to J Hagenbuckle, add to the ambiance of the production. The focus should be on the notorious duo, and is.

Robin McLaughlin's costumes on Bonnie and Clyde were great; Clyde's suit was especially handsome. And giving the three piece band suitable period attire works well too as they are positioned on the stage. Robert Wilder (keyboard), Alex Hopper (guitar) and Phil White (drums) add opulence to the show.

Hagenbuckle's sound design is a critical part of the show. The sound effects and the timing of Brendan Cloney as the sound board operator was spot on opening night. Well done! Suzette Hutchinson's choreography or "movement" underscored the action sequences. The actors created lightning-fire tableaus to convey a crime spree, a chase and more. The efforts of stage manager Zachary Soule Philbrook with Mark Vagenas on the light board complete the excellent production crew behind the scenes.

HJT's "Bonnie and Clyde" is going to be much discussed this season. See it before it blasts away!

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