The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde
Crank Collective revives Texas' most infamous outlaw couple in a short and folksy musical that mixes fact and fiction
The True Story of Bonnie and ClydeCity Theatre, 3824-D Airport,
Through Feb. 14
Running Time: 1 hr.
"There's a musical about Bonnie and Clyde?" you ask. Yes, indeed. In fact, there are several musicals centered on the fabled couple, with Frank Wildhorn's 2011 Broadway iteration likely the most well-known. The installment currently onstage at City Theatre is an original retelling by John Cecil and Crank Collective titled The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde. But there is a caveat from the chorus of performers who open the show: "More than half of it is true."
At just under an hour, this is an especially brief musical that touches on all of the familiar elements (at least to me) of the Bonnie and Clyde story. The highlight of the script is, perhaps, the creative frame through which the plot is told. Audrey Acosta plays newspaper reporter Caroline, whose crime beat lays out the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow as it unfolds onstage. Fellow reporter Thomas (Carl Guthrie) rounds out the journalistic duo, who might now and again stretch the truth in favor of catchy headlines. This unique window into the notorious story serves a variety of functions: It allows for exposition that isn't too heavy-handed while at the same time creating space for observation and commentary. Through the use of Caroline and Thomas, Cecil and Crank Collective connect Bonnie and Clyde's misadventures to the media and public in a creative way, asking "What if?"
The music is folksy, evoking the spirit of the piece appropriately. Though the songs sometimes trade dramatic function for especially simple forms and lyric structures that feature a great deal of repetition, the instrumentation (courtesy of musicians Chris La Cava, Jonathan Hoyle, Jason Silverberg, and Cecil) does provide some added dimension and variety. As Bonnie, Megan Ortiz's strong vocals contribute much to the sound of the score.
As I sat watching The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde, I experienced a bit of déjà vu. I flashed back on a previous Crank Collective production at City Theatre, Alamo Aftermath: A Texas Revolution Operetta. In my review of that show, I commented that it would be "particularly suited ... [to] history museums, elementary and middle school classrooms, and reenactment sites." The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde strikes me as much in the same vein – except, perhaps, that its audience might skew slightly older (it's a little mature for the very young kids). For a story about gangsters who offed their fair share of people, Crank's Bonnie and Clyde features a surprisingly low danger/action element in its staging. But this makes it all the more appropriate for educational settings where families can attend such a production together. The stylized action and occasional underacting do sometimes slow the pace of the production, but the material and minimalist staging provide the fodder for Crank Collective to take the show on the road as part of its unique brand of offerings. – Adam Roberts