by Jan Bretz and Patsy Koch Johns
“Some day they’ll go down together
And they’ll bury them side by side
To a few it’ll be grief
To the law a relief
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”
The Trails End, Bonnie Parker
A few miles south of Lincoln lies a vault, a treasure, in community theatre. You won’t find a better way to spend an evening to hide away than in the little The STAGE Theatre in Hickman, NE. You don’t need a gun to get in. All you need is twenty bucks and the desire to go back in time to experience the fascinating lives of the legendary Bonnie and Clyde.
The show opens with a bang. The lights, the sound, the set, the music create a sensory explosion that draws you into the story of the mythical couple. The sense of time and place is established so vividly that you open your eyes and you are looking at the young Bonnie and Clyde. Seeing them in the children they were before they decided to hit the trail and break the law adds humanity and pathos to this production. The opening foreshadows the technical expertise you will witness throughout the show.
It’s difficult to give attention to particular actors because the talent of the ensemble is overwhelming from the start. We can’t neglect to mention the outstanding individual performances of Amelia Barrett as Bonnie Parker, Lindsey Oelling as Blanche Barrow, Sean Flattery as Buck Barrow, Stuart Richey in the role of Ted, and Connor Dudley as Sheriff Schmid. But wow! Wow! Michael J. Corner as Clyde Barrow is mesmerizing with rippling muscles as he drives into view in the “get away” car. Women in the audience swooned when he sang “When I Drive.” With his bad boy swagger and the dream of grandeur in his eyes, he is believable every moment. No matter how dangerous the ride, every woman in the audience wanted to take a ride with Clyde. Every man in the audience was shifting gears.
Unlike some musicals when the songs take you out and feel like interruptions, the songs in Bonnie and Clyde move the story along. Favorite musical moments include “God’s Arms” by the Preacher and company featuring symbolic “hold-up” choreography with the rockabilly, blues, and gospel music created by Frank Wildhorn. Soon after, Clyde sings the rip-roaring “Raise a Little Hell,” reprised in Act Two in a trio of Clyde, Buck, and Ted that changes the mood to heartache. Perhaps one of the most poignant scenes of the show is Clyde’s bathtub ballad “Bonnie.” Lastly the audience knows as they watch the lighter moment in “How About a Dance,” when Blanche and Buck share a Twinkie and Bonnie and Clyde embrace not knowing that their horrific demise is eminent.
Three hours speed by in this engrossing tale directed by Robert Wamsley. The seamless transitions and masterful pacing pull the audience along. We suggest you leave the children at home. They may have difficulty processing the violence. Aim for Hickman and don’t miss this production—a blast to the past directed and performed with precision.
Jan Bretz and Patsy Koch Johns on our lucky Friday the 13th, 2018