Local theatergoers will play an important role in the progress of “Bonnie & Clyde.”
The new musical begins performances at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota on Nov. 12. Rehearsals started earlier this week, and expectations are running high.
If everything goes as planned, Sarasota will serve as the final destination for “Bonnie & Clyde” before its premiere on Broadway.
“I know it is going to be a success here,” said Michael Edwards, producing artistic director of the Asolo, who later added, “During the run, our New York producers will be sending all their investor friends down here.”
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The show features a book by Ivan Menchell (“The Cemetery Club,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”), music by Frank Wildhorn (“Jekyll & Hyde,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “Wonderland”) and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Don Black (“Sunset Boulevard”).
Director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun’s credits include “Big River,” “Grease,” “The Will Rogers Follies,” and the national tour of “9 to 5: The Musical,” which plays the Straz Center in Tampa starting Oct. 26.
On Thursday, the Ringling International Arts Festival held an intimate panel discussion, “The Making of Bonnie & Clyde,” at the Museum of Art.
The good-humored Edwards hosted with wise-cracking Menchell and affable Calhoun. The three men offered details about the production.
For starters, despite sharing a title, the show is not a musical adaptation of recently deceased director Arthur Penn’s classic 1967 film starring Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker.
“This has nothing to do with the movie,” Menchell said. “It starts with Bonnie and Clyde at 10 years old.”
The musical’s book writer concentrated on fleshing out the characters beyond their famed killing sprees famously depicted, often in startling close-up, by Penn.
Menchell researched the real-life criminals by reading the numerous accounts penned by those whose lives were directly affected by them.
“Anyone they aimed a gun at wrote a book,” he cracked, “unless they were killed.”
“Bonnie & Clyde” had its world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in November 2009. The San Diego Theatre Critics Circle honored it as Outstanding New Musical. The Los Angeles Times called Wildhorn’s score “undeniably impressive.” But the show presented here will be significantly different than the one staged in Southern California.
Six of the 18 songs are previously unheard, including the freshly composed “Made in America.” There are alterations to the structure of the story. New scenes added. Old scenes jettisoned. The creators also modified the tone of the play — set mostly during the Great Depression — to reflect the mood of our modern Great Recession.
“The despair and dust bowl of the 1930s is another character in the show,” Calhoun said.
During its San Diego run, 24-year-old Laura Osnes, best known for her role as Sandy in the 2007 Broadway production of “Grease,” played Bonnie. Stark Sands, currently on Broadway as Tunny in “American Idiot,” played Clyde. The cast for the Asolo production will be announced shortly. But don’t expect your favorite sitcom star on stage.
“We’re bucking the trend of taking a star from TV,” Calhoun said. “We want to discover stars — even though the producers want an established star.
“The title is the star of the show,” the director added. “We’re convinced that’s the best way to go.”
Wade Tatangelo, features reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7057.