Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 10:25 pm | Mostly Cloudy 58º


Out of the Box Theatre Gunning for a Hit with ‘Bonnie and Clyde’

Wrapping up its fourth season, Out of the Box Theatre Co. presents Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical, opening this Thursday and running through April 13 at Center Stage Theater.

This marks the first appearance of the musical in Southern California since its world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse prior to its Broadway run.

For tickets to the Santa Barbara production, click here or call 805.963.0408.

The rockabilly and gospel-style score is by Tony-nominated composer Frank Wildhorn (music) and Don Black (lyrics) with book by Ivan Menchell.

The cast features recent PCPA Theaterfest alum Lafras le Roux as Clyde Barrow and Santa Barbara local Katherine Bottoms as Bonnie Parker, with William Schneiderman as Buck Barrow and Samantha Eve as Blanche Barrow. They will be joined on stage by Deborah Bertling, Don Margolin, Marc Nicolas, Olivia O’Brien, Shannon Saleh, Craig Scott, Christopher Lee Short, Dillon Stave, Leslie Story and Dillon Yuhasz.

Eve, Out of the Box’s artistic director who also directs this production, shares her thoughts on this unique production.

Justine Sutton: Why Bonnie and Clyde? What drew you to the script, and what is relevant about it now?

Samantha Eve: The score to Bonnie and Clyde is the first thing I fell in love with. The music is just so masterfully written to suit the story, with a perfect balance of entertaining, catchy rockabilly/musical theater melodies and darker, dramatic moments. After listening to the soundtrack on repeat for a while, I requested a perusal copy of the script from the licensing company, MTI. When I read the script, I was immediately drawn to the relationships written out between the characters — Bonnie and Clyde, Clyde and his brother Buck, Buck and his wife, the relationship both Bonnie and Clyde had with their respective families.

Without justifying their actions or brushing over the violence that is such a huge part of their lives, I still felt like it allowed their story to be told. We didn't go into this show with the desire to share a particular moral or message that is relevant to our times, but I think a lot of what makes this story so appealing and interesting is that these characters are real people with real feelings, thinking in real ways. I believe the humanity of these characters — their passions, their losses — keeps the show extremely relevant and relatable.

JS: What does this have in common with past Out of the Box productions, and in what ways is it different?

SE: Like many of our past productions, Bonnie and Clyde is a story that may seem like a strange choice to turn into a musical, at least at first. Funny enough, I think the reasons that lead to that first impression are exactly what make it a great musical. This isn't just mindless, toe-tapping entertainment — the entertainment is certainly there, but it's also an exploration of human character. Like many of our shows, this is a show with adult themes, but I like to think they're handled in a gentle, respectful way.

Something different about this production is the fact that it's based on a true story. Some artistic license has been taken by the writers, but it is absolutely packed with bits of information about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. While Assassins and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson both featured historical figures, the styles of both those shows allowed for surreal interpretation. The idea of presenting these characters as real people under real historical circumstances is pretty new for us.

JS: Have you cast many of the same actors you've worked with in the past, and are there some new faces?

SE: It's a real mix this time around! We hold auditions for every show we produce, so it's always exciting to see who we end up with. Audience members will see a lot of familiar faces from Assassins, Evil Dead, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal and Carrie, but we also have a lot of fantastic new additions to the cast as well.

Some are regulars on Santa Barbara stages, and the stars just happened to align enough to sync our schedules for Bonnie and Clyde, while some are completely new to us. Katherine Bottoms, playing Bonnie Parker, was in the role of Sue Snell in Carrie last fall, while Lafras le Roux, playing Clyde Barrow, is a recent PCPA alum and will be making his Out of the Box debut.

JS: What are the particular challenges and rewards of this production?

SE: This has probably been one of the most complicated shows to figure out in terms of production. I feel like I've said that at least twice before (Evil Dead and Carrie come to mind), but this time, I mean it. There are scenes that take place in five different locations, songs that feature nearly every member of our 14-person cast onstage at the same time, and ensemble actors juggling up to six different roles, sometimes shedding one costume and throwing on another in a matter of seconds.

There are cars, firing pistols, gas pumps and jail cells. Part of what we love doing as Out of the Box Theatre Company is paring down large spectacle-driven shows and bringing the focus to the heart of the story. ... It hasn't been easy, but I like to think we've captured a good balance with Bonnie and Clyde.

JS: Anything else you'd care to share?

SE: A lot of our cast members have taken the time to read Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde. It's a fantastic biography by Jeff Guinn, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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