Bonnie and Clyde
A Six Gun Two Character Musical
Book, Lyrics and Music by Will Pomerantz, Doug Ritchie and Andrew Philip Herron
Based on similar historic material to the later Broadway musical, this two character version of Bonnie and Clyde provides your audiences with brilliant music, high theatricality, and a cast of two unforgettable characters. Economical in a small space and respectable in a large, it can be expanded or downsized to fit any unique space.
Bonnie and Clyde – Musical Numbers
Then I Think of Him
Running / I Want More
The Barrow Gang
What Just Happened?
Story of Bonnie & Clyde
A Real Piece of Work
Where Was Our Main Street?
Who I Am
That’s the Way We’ll Go
A Better Man
A Studio CD of the music is available for sale
Rather than a retelling of the true story, the musical has fun with the media myth of Bonnie and Clyde. Without the members of the Barrow gang or any other characters on stage, the sole focus becomes the relationship between the two lovers.
“Bonnie and Clyde” is thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end. There’s romance, adventure, second thoughts, recriminations, guilt, and finally a defiant pride in what they’ve become. The legend lives on.
Minus the guns, it is not much different from any great love story, and that is a large part of the production’s appeal.
The cast and crew delivered a flawless opening night that flowed effortlessly from song to song, scene to scene. One of the surprises of the show is how funny it is, especially the car chases, which are hilariously choreographed. The first act is pure fun, and while the second act is more somber at times, the dialogue still crackles with one-liners, perfectly delivered for maximum comic effect.
The song book features toe-tapping show tunes with a bluesy, folksy undertone that are nicely suited to the story.
Bonnie and Clyde, is a sure-fire hit love story and will be slaying audiences and is sure to slay audiences around the country.
BONNIE – Between 20 and 30 years old (Mezzo/Hi-Alto, A3 to Eb5, able to transition smoothly between chest, mix, and head). A Texas girl in the 1930s who might have become something of a debutante, but she fell onto hard times and a bad marriage. She is a tad more graceful than her station in life but still has the self-serving pluckiness associated with her historical image. Should be able to deliver punch-lines and dramatic moments effectively.
CLYDE – Between 20 and 30 years old (Tenor/Hi-Barry, Sings Bb2 to G4, able to belt high). A small-time Texas bandit from the Depression who is quick on his feet. He can be charming in his scrappy, improvised way, but he also has a hint of rough, prick-ish arrogance in him. He has been on the wrong side of the law since childhood. Should be able to deliver punch-lines and dramatic moments effectively.
Bonnie and Clyde – it was love. Yes they were reprehensible, though often funny. Yes, they were 70-years-dead and justly so, enduring as their story has been. And yes, I was just an ambitious composer in New York who had yet to get a break.
But something magic happened when Will Pomerantz, Doug Ritchie and I wrote our minimalist two-hander. We wanted to make our Bonnie and Clyde a dynamic performance piece for two talents. More importantly, we wanted to make it unique; the only question was how. People had been exhausting every angle on those two villains since they died.
By 2000 we thought we had our answer. 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 tragicomic 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 a number of dynamite songs.
The reviews for our 2003 production in Seattle would applaud our “excellence at creating a duet that’s essentially a domestic squabble,” but actually becoming worthy of that review would take work. For one thing, we soon learned we couldn’t just ignore B&C’s iconic image. People expected fun and from those two, so we armed our script with as much fun as we could while staying true to our goals. They also expected some historical gravity, so we boned up on our themes.
In New York, long before this, our script crossed the desk of Allan Buchman at 45 Bleecker (The Exonerated), who was impressed enough to pair us with the esteemed director Will Pomerantz, who came on board as a co-librettist. A reading with Amanda Serkasevich (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and Joe Machota (Mamma Mia) boded well for an upcoming production in the midwest.
Then a well-meaning, highly respected company fell flat bringing our show to life. While we were stuck back in New York, the theatre added five characters and changed some of the script. They were well within their rights – we granted them that latitude – but the reviews were damning. Clearly, things needed work.
So we fixed that script like nobody’s business, and the ovation we got two years later at Village Theatre, the venerable Seattle area producing company, was joyous. Still, we needed to get our focus right. Almost like magic, a 2004 reading at Ardelle Striker’s Blue Heron Theatre in New York City did the trick. Now, we can look back with pride on productions from Washington to Massachusetts to Georgia to Oregon to even Canada. Our piece is also available for licensing by any theatre that wants this “intelligently conceived, carefully written, infectious little musical,” as Playwright’s Horizons in New York City called it. There will always be other Bonnie and Clyde’s out there, as we would soon learn from other versions popping up, but I’m happy to report, our outlaws appear to be here to stay.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow mean so many things to so many people that they could never be fully distilled into one play. Yet good and entertaining drama often comes of their tale. This musical uses Bonnie & Clyde’s legend (including a handful of historical details, plus some popular myths from the 1930s media circus) to explore two themes:
1. How lovers – MANY lovers – fall deeper and deeper into questionable, madcap, funny, even dangerous relationships, passing up clear opportunities to bail out.
2. WHY they seem to do this – because joining romantically is often the way people transcend their own smallness. If Bonnie and Clyde had never met, we probably never would have heard of them. Together, they became notorious.
Other artists have had different takes. Pulp magazines of the thirties featured stories about the pair. The 1937 movie “You Only Live Twice” envisioned its central lovers as victims of a society that doesn’t offer real hope to ex-convicts, while “The Bonnie Parker Story” of 1958 had a more cynical tone. Countless books, cartoons, and skits were also written before the popular 1967 film.
Yet these takes were largely sensationalized. The real Clyde, a heterosexual, was not especially charming or audacious (though he did leave a string of bodies). The real Bonnie, who was oddly known as a “nice” girl while growing up, had real reservations about the hellion image she was acquiring. This musical humorously explores that.
Yet Hollywood hardly invented the myths that buried these facts. Well before Bonnie and Clyde were fatally ambushed by law enforcement, editorials and cartoons depicted a wild pair of lovers joyfully tearing up the Midwest. Myths were born, and Bonnie and Clyde audaciously played along, taking staged pictures of themselves and mailing provocative accounts into newspapers.
While this musical traffics in the resulting myths, it is substantially different from the various prior tellings. Written in a minimalist, two-person mode, it envisions Bonnie and Clyde not as icons but as heightened versions of any Jack and Jill falling into a questionable relationship – read: most of us at one time or another. It suggests that the line between our own occasionally bickering love affairs and that of two serial killers might be a thin one.
1. Audiences expect fun. This is not because of the various film adaptations; many saw Bonnie & Clyde as fun before they were even dead – as the wild pair who did unto businesses and foreclosing banks what others in the Depression only dreamed of doing. It helps to cast performers who can deliver punch-lines, but just as important is the pace of the show. Scenes should move with some agility (no long scene changes, no time-encumbering changes of costume or hair). The show plays best when possessed of a choreographic tightness that extends into the scene changes. Cubic yards of dialogue and bickering were trimmed to give it its steady flow. Musical tempos and dynamics were carefully timed, calculated, and written. They should be respected as much as possible.
2. Audiences expect at least a feeling of authenticity. Please note the inclusion of details about Bonnie and Clyde’s exploits, including newspaper articles – VERY important. More fundamentally, actors will do best to come across as authentic southerners in the throes of the Depression, with all the dramatically motivating desperation that implies. At the same time, too much Texan/Midwestern nasality in the singing could hurt the songs.
3. Audiences expect love. Argumentative beats, while important, should not outnumber loving beats. These will often turn on a dime and require actors to transition gracefully.
4. Audiences expect to get something – anything – that they haven’t gotten from other versions of the tale. The authors have structured most scenes to reveal at least one uncommonly-known detail about the characters, but that is not enough. The true uniqueness of this show lay in its insistence on viewing Bonnie and Clyde as iconic deities SECOND and as an average Jack and Jill run amok FIRST. Fixing this delicate balance was key to structuring the script.
As you can see, direction of this piece can be a balancing act. Relatively young performers have tackled these roles with success, but it is not a crime to cast Clyde (and especially Bonnie) older than they were historically. It is a crime to have a two-person show be performed in anything less than a thrilling manner.
Small cast musicals are common as of late, as are musicals that take a fun, tuneful approach to dark subject matter. Yet this one, at 80 minutes, aims for a further economy. Bonnie and Clyde moved very fast, and that leaves scant time for lengthy historical exposition, social commentary, or thematic point-pounding. Instead, the themes of this piece come alive in the old fashioned way – by being ever present in the words of its creators.
Will Pomerantz (Co-Librettist) has directed and developed new plays and musicals with American Repertory Theatre, 2nd Stage, the Guthrie, Playwrights Horizons, the Public Theatre, New York Theater Workshop, Signature Theatre, the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Mark Taper Forum. He has directed premieres by John Guare, David Auburn, Neil LaBute, Kia Corthron, Craig Lucas, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Julia Jordan. His production of The Blue Flower swept all major Boston awards, and its New York production at 2nd Stage was listed one of the 10 Best Productions of the Year by Bloomberg. His production of The Shape of Things received a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Performance. He was Director-in-Residence for Culture Project, where he received an OOBR Award for A Tale of Two Cities, is the first American director ever invited to direct for the National Theatre of Poland, and is currently Associate Artistic Director at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, NY.
Andrew Philip Herron
Andrew Philip Herron (Composer, Co-Librettist and Co-Lyricist) composed and co-wrote the musicals Bonnie and Clyde; the Two Person, Six Gun Musical and The Top, arranged the revue Babes in Hollywood, lyricized the show The Naked Family, underscored plays, and served as music director for the venerable Theatre Strike Force improv troupe. His work has been produced and read at such theatres as The Culture Project at 45 Bleecker and Blue Heron Arts Center (off-Broadway), Village Theatre (Seattle), Cape Cod Theatre Company, ART Station (Atlanta), Innovation Theatre Works (Oregon), Northern Light Theatre (Edmonton), Jedlicka Performing Arts Center (Chicago), Hillbarn Theatre (San Francisco Bay), the Warner Theatre (Connecticut), Connecticut Cabaret Theatre, Winter Park Playhouse (Orlando), Arundel Barn Playhouse (Maine), Annie Sellars Jordan Parlor Theatre (North Carolina), Gaslight Theatre, Constans Theatre (Florida), and the Big Stinkin’ International Improv & Sketch Comedy Festival (Austin).
Doug Ritchie (Co-Lyricist) is the lyricist and co-librettist of the musical The Top, the co-lyricist for Bonnie and Clyde, and collaborated with Andrew Philip Herron for longer than he probably cares to remember. Mr. Ritchie’s work has been presented at such theatres as The Culture Project at 45 Bleecker and Blue Heron Arts Center (off-Broadway), Cape Cod Theatre Company, Village Theatre (Seattle), ART Station (Atlanta), Innovation Theatre Works (Oregon), and Northern Light Theatre (Edmonton). He is a graduate of the University of Florida.
PROGRAM CREDITS FOR TITLE PAGE
Book: Will Pomerantz & Andrew Philip Herron
Music: Andrew Philip Herron
Lyrics: Doug Ritchie & Andrew Philip Herron
Originally directed by Will Pomerantz
Bonnie and Clyde – Audio
The Story of Bonnie and Clyde
Oklahoma State Line
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