Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Slow Burn Theatre: Bonnie & Clyde (4 reviews)

bonnie & clydeSlow Burn Theatre Company opened its production of Bonnie & Clyde at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater on January 23, 2014.
At the height of the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went from two small-town nobodies in West Texas to America’s most renowned folk heroes and the Texas law enforcement’s worst nightmares.  Fearless, shameless, and alluring, their electrifying story of love, adventure and crime captured the excited attention of an entire country. Forced to stay on the run from every southern state’s police force, the lovers resort to robbery and murder to survive. As the infamous duo’s fame grows bigger, their inevitable end draws nearer.
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that included Jessica BrookeSandford, Bruno Faria, Christian Vandepas, Kaela Antolino, Patrick Rodriquez, David Cohn, Kaitlyn O’Neill, Meredith Bartmon, David Michael Sirois, Idalmy Carcache, Dan Carter, Matthew Korinko, Bradley Mack, Janelle Mack, Rick Pena, Erin Pittleman, Conor Walton, Nicholas V. Ismailoff and Juliette Valle.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
…once again, Slow Burn Theatre Company has found the strengths in a “troubled” work and forged an entertaining even intermittently thrilling work. Enhanced immeasurably by four memorable performances, director/choreographer Patrick Fitzwater and his creative team keep nudging upward their level of quality and polish without sacrificing their commitment to tackling edgy, difficult work that few would attempt.
There are flaws and shortcomings in the underlying show… while this is Wildhorn’s least indulgently overblown score – a compliment of sorts — Black’s lyrics and Mentchell’s book range from competent to banal.  That said, Slow Burn’s production eclipses the faults with an exciting, aforementioned thrilling evening whenever the sensuous Bruno Faria and the sultry Jessica Brooke Sanford are musically proclaiming their devotion, passionately necking or just exuding adoration as if their eyes were laser-powered searchlights.
Crucial to the show’s success is whoever is playing the title characters. Slow Burn must have a guardian angel because they are blessed with Faria and Sanford who have the strong, expressive and nuanced voices you can only hope for in a singing actor. They are also, as we mentioned, gorgeous and sexy with an electrifying chemistry that requires turning on the air-conditioning in the auditorium.
Sanford, who had a Carbonell nomination fresh out of school as the teenager in Zoetic Stage’s Fear Up Harsh, is captivating. She easily communicates why Bonnie is attracted to Clyde and why she stays with him.
Faria, who hasn’t graduated yet from FAU, is a real find. His smoldering good looks …are augmented with an innate charisma and a singing voice that can rip the roof off or gently caress a love song while strumming a ukulele in a bathtub. His Clyde has a wry, wicked smile that says he sees a secret that the rest of the world doesn’t know.
Most of the other cast members are solid, especially Antolino… as the show’s moral center, and Vandepas… who does not have Clyde’s charisma, but whose loyalty and admiration is evident in the brothers’ rousing paean to the independence inherent in the American automotive culture, “When I Drive.”
…Slow Burn’s creative team delivers some its best work including Sean McClelland’s set, a ragtag collection of mold green corrugated tin sheets, evoking a dusty dying small town or a shanty village for dispossessed farmers as power lines retreat into the distance. Rick Peña’s period costumes are note perfect, Lance Blank’s lighting is fluid, and Danny Butler’s sound — often the most variable element in the high school auditorium – was flawless. Emmanuel Schvartzman’s musical direction, which brought out such glorious sounds from the cast, also led a band that mastered a wide range of genres.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Boca Raton’s Slow Burn Theatre, which will move to the Broward Center next season, has built a multifaceted reputation for strong work in a short period of time. One of the things that director-choreographer Patrick Fitzwater does so well is to highlight the virtues of musicals with troubled track records. Largely, he does so again with Bonnie & Clyde,
…still young but already married to and abandoned by one bad guy, waitress Bonnie (Jessica Brooke Sanford) meets stickup artist Clyde (Bruno Faria). The electricity between the characters is so hot that it may just be the two actors powering Lance Blank’s lighting design. Sanford graduated not so long ago from Miami’s New World School of the Arts, and Faria is a soon-to-graduate senior at Florida Atlantic University. For both of these charismatic young actors with their strong voices, Bonnie & Clyde is a breakout show.
Sanford’s How ‘Bout a Dance is one of the musical’s highlights, as are Faria’s tender Bonnie and Antolino’s lovely That’s What You Call a Dream.
Casting is another job Fitzwater does particularly well. From the meaty roles of Clyde’s brother Buck (Christian Vandepas) and his wife Blanche (Kaela Antolino) to assorted lawmen, the outlaws’ families and the ensemble, Fitzwater has found good actor-singer-dancers who wholeheartedly sell the material as music director Emmanuel Schvartzman and four other musicians provide the instrumental give-and-take.
  Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
There are some shows, such as Slow Burn Theatre's Bonnie & Clyde in West Boca Raton, where the space around you just falls away. You forget about the seats around you, the proscenium loses your focus, and all that is left is the musical. You even blank out on the fact that while you are technically in the West Boca Performing Arts Theater, you are actually on the campus of West Boca Raton Community High School.  About as far away from high school as a show can get, this feels like a Broadway production. More important, it looks and sounds like one.
The ensemble throbs with energy, singing and dancing gloriously. The leads are sexy and sultry. The band sounds lush, and the lighting is lavish. The set, patches that look like corrugated tin, manages to be lyrical and hard.
But the show's book, by Ivan Menchell (The Cemetary Club, Dracula, the Musical) loses its trajectory after awhile, making the two hours and 15 minutes (with a 15-minute intermission) seem longer than it is.  While Bonnie & Clyde is a tuneful musical (sampling from country, blues and pop), it is also a tune-FULL musical, dragging late in the second act with one or two too many reprises.  We just don't need to hear yet another song about what every character is thinking and feeling at every point in the story. We get it. You're Bonnie and Clyde.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Over the past five years, Slow Burn Theatre Company has gone from struggling upstart to a musical theatre force to be reckoned with. Now with their current production of Bonnie & Clyde, they have outdone themselves, producing a sexy, steamy, sultry show that would be at home on any Broadway stage.
Their story is on paper, but it is director Patrick Fitzwater’s vision and his cast’s and design team’s considerable talents that bring their tale to life. Fitzwater is especially adept at making more on stage than there is on the page, never more so than with this script.
But the flaws in the script are overshadowed because the chemistry between Jessica Brooke Sanford’s Bonnie and Bruno Faria’s Clyde is palpable from the very beginning. Each encounter reeks of raw sexuality. Sanford and Faria perfectly portray the longing and urgency of illicit love, and the poignancy of true anti-heroes — you can’t help but root for them even though technically they are the bad guys and you know how their story ends.
The supporting cast is equally excellent. Christian Vandepas plays Clyde’s gun-wielding brother Buck Barrow with panache, while Kaela Antolino plays his bible-thumping wife Blanche with Betty Boop charm feisty resolve. David Cohn is a standout as a preacher rallying the talented ensemble in several scenes. Juliette Valle and Nicholas V. Ismailoff deliver wonderful performances as the Young Bonnie and Young Clyde.
The Bonnie & Clyde design team is spot on. Fitzwater works his choreography magic in several numbers.. Emmanuel Schvartzman’s musical direction is perfect. Sean McClelland’s ramshackle set is a fitting rendition of time and place. Lance Blank’s lighting enhances the steaminess of the story. Danny Butler’s sound is excellent. And Rick Pena’s costumes show the careful research that went into his design.
The Slow Burn Theatre Company production of Bonnie & Clyde at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater through February 8, then plays at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center February 12-15, 2015.

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