Creative team members of Utah Repertory Theater Company’s BONNIE & CLYDE had the rare opportunity to meet with composer Frank Wildhorn in preparation for the company’s Utah premiere of the musical.
“It was great to meet this Broadway legend in person,” said Johnny Hebda, Utah Rep Founder and an Executive Producer. “Frank took time to talk about the characters and his take on the story of BONNIE & CLYDE. I could feel his passion as he spoke of the show, and I saw his eyes light up with excitement that we would be premiering his latest work here in Utah.”
Utah Repertory Theater Company stages BONNIE & CLYDE, the Utah premiere of Broadway’s most-wanted musical, Jan. 7-Feb. 1 at the Lehi Arts Center.
Wildhorn was in Provo, Utah, to perform “Wildhorn & Friends” at Brigham Young University’s Bravo! Performing Arts Series. With Wildhorn as accompanist, Broadway star Darren Ritchie performed “The World Will Remember Us” from BONNIE & CLYDE during the concert.
Hebda, who performs the role of Clyde in the company’s production, was joined by Madeline Weinberger, who plays Bonnie, and director Adam Cannon on the concert stage with Wildhorn seated at the piano. The composer was eager to answer their questions and explain the creation of his 2011 Broadway musical.
The score to BONNIE & CLYDE, which combines rockabilly and gospel-style music, was written by the Tony-nominated Frank Wildhorn, whose credits include “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “The Civil War” and “Jekyl & Hyde.”
Those familiar with other Wildhorn musicals will recognize elements “Bonnie & Clyde” share with his previous shows, “but it’s not just a retread,” Cannon says. “The music is quite contemporary while involving the subject matter of a bygone era. Plus, there’s a passion and a message to the music. It also helps to identify the characters and relates their inner struggles.”
BONNIE & CLYDE earned two Tony Award nominations in 2012, including best score.
What did Hebda, Weinberger, and Cannon learn?
Hebda: “I learned that Frank wrote the roles of Bonnie and Clyde as ‘heroes’ rather than ‘villains.’ They were sort of anti-establishment, acting out against the Depression and corruption of the government during the time. Yes, they shot and killed people, but that was more of a casualty to their mission as opposed to them being ‘heartless’ or ‘blood thirsty.’ Making Bonnie and Clyde likable and relatable characters is crucial to the success of the musical.”
On playing Clyde: “I will focus on the positive traits and qualities of Clyde, such as his love and dedication to Bonnie. He had a willingness and desire to protect and support his family in the Depression, and there’s a journey he goes through as he seeks to get ahead in life and better himself. Of course, revenge and the taking of human life were bad things he did, but those were not his defining characteristics. Therefore, I will approach Clyde as someone trying to be a hero and someone full of youthful energy and passion as opposed to a ‘cold-blooded killer.’ ”
Weinberger: “Bonnie and Clyde’s story was something that we all could relate to. Bonnie had dreams of her own and wanted to move away, and ambitiously wanted to make those things happen. She had the idea of being so in love with someone that she’d rather live a short life with that person than a long one with out. Hers was a love that caused her you to stay even when things get messy. They were madly in love with each other. The show is full of passion-LOTS of passion, Frank said.”
On playing Bonnie, Weinberger, who recently played the role of Fiona in the musical “Shrek”: “Bonnie is opposite Fiona, Frank said; completely the opposite of Fiona. So I’ll absolutely work on that. Bonnie is a powerhouse, strong, and opinionated, and an independent woman. And she need to be in order to hold her own in a relationship with an outlaw. I’ll play her honestly-as a person dealing with the inner struggles of committing the crimes, leaving or staying with Clyde, and of course dealing with falling in love with a man no one approves of. Frank believes Utah NEEDS to see this show. We need a story like this to be told her. And I will tell it. The way it happened.”
Cannon: “Wildhorn mentioned the importance of passion in each of the songs and in each character, and that’s one of the things I love about this show.”
On directing BONNIE & CLYDE: “Frank affirmed the path I was headed down. I was glad to see that he and I were seeing things in similar ways when it came to the show and the characters. That may sound conceited, but I don’t mean it to. I’ve really connected with this show. Meeting him was a testament to the good job he did in putting the show together.”
The original Broadway production of BONNIE & CLYDE included two Utahns in lead roles. Springville, Utah, native Claybourne Elder created the role of Clyde’s brother, Buck Barrow, and Talon Ackerman of Salt Lake City played Young Clyde.