In a show about outlaws, it’s not surprising to find a bit of criminal activity. But that might be sad news for the gentleman of “Bonnie and Clyde,” since the ladies of this new Ovation Theatre production steal the show.
Specifically, Nancee Steiger, who plays Bonnie, one half of the deadly duo (along with Nick Ono as Clyde); and Nichole Heasley, as Buck Barrow’s comically long-suffering wife, Blanche, are standouts.
A caveat: The songbook of this 2009 musical is a bit hit or miss to the untrained ear. By no fault of the skilled performers, some of these songs don’t resonate like those in better-known musicals. You don’t walk out of this show with much in the way of earworms like a “Chicago” or even “Rent,” which just came to Broadway in Bakersfield at Rabobank.
That said, the duet between Steiger and Heasley, “You Love Who You Love,” was a show-stopper. It elicited thunderous applause on opening night, in part fueled by an audience consisting in no small part of fellow theater folk.
When it’s hard to see the allure of criminal men — especially one who slaps you (even if you slap him back, as Bonnie does) — the two women still make the case for love that knows no common sense.
The number “That’s What You Call a Dream” is also a good one. Although Blanche’s troubles and frustrations with Buck (Nate Logan) are often played for laughs, this song delves further into the gravity of the situation.
Realizing a simple life was never going to be enough for her husband, she tells him he was all she needed, that all she ever wanted “is on this side of the door.”
As the show built toward its inevitable conclusion, it made me wish there was more of Bonnie reading her poems or her and Blanche sniping at each other (as she called out the questionable color of Bonnie’s red hair, saying that’s not judgment, but rather her professional opinion as a stylist).
The praise is not just reserved for the stunning leads. Watching Erica Lynn, who plays both the young Bonnie and ensemble roles including the criminally adulterous Trish, made me regret missing her star turn in “Legally Blonde” last summer.
In fact, the entire number of “You’re Going Back to Jail,” in which Blanche aims to sway Buck from his criminal path, is an exercise in comedy as Lynn, Amelia Mejia and Lizzy Lake list the pros and cons of loving a man behind bars.
A return to Blanche’s salon would have been a welcome respite when the musical continues down its dark path.
Of course, theater, like all art, can be subjective. Perhaps these guys deserve more consideration. My recommendation is go see the show for yourself and form your own opinions. The hardscrabble women of this musical would expect nothing less.