Through the dark and dusty backgrounds a car travels. The dirt thrown into the air as the car speeds by. Inside, a gang of fugitives wanted by the law. Where would they go now that their hideout at Joplin, Missouri was now gone? Would it be Texas? Minnesota? And how long before the jig would be up? The answer would be May 23, 1934. Early that day a woman and a man, Bonnie and Clyde, are ambushed by four Texas officers. Their vicious and barbarous crime wave is at an end.
The musical depicting the infamous partnership of Bonnie and Clyde premiered in La Jolla, California. The show made its debut in November 2009. Two short years later the show made its Broadway debut (2011). Unfortunately the show did not do well and closed after four weeks. Ticket sales were poor and the show did not bode well with audiences. Despite these setbacks, the show has continued to grow in popularity internationally. And finally the show is here in Melbourne. Theatre People’s Christopher McLeod recently caught up with Hamish Anderson (Director) and Vicki Quinn (Musical Director) for an insight into the Fab Nobs production of Bonnie and Clyde taking place later this year. The company is in the process of casting the production this weekend and Hamish and Vicki were keen to discuss what they are looking for.
C.M. How did you become involved as a Director for Bonnie and Clyde?
H.A. I went to New York two years ago and saw Bonnie and Clyde with Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes. The minute I walked into that theatre I knew it was a Fab Nobs show. So I brought it back to Leanne Gooding. I spoke to her about it. And it probably took about a year and a half worth of convincing and talking about it to get her to give it the go ahead. And then once it was approved by her she asked me if I would like to direct it. I said “hell yeah I would”. I feel in love with the show. It’s an incredible show. The score’s amazing, the lyrics, and the dialogue, and the acting is intense and incredibly unique. It is a new show that fits in perfectly with the Fab factory setting. You’ve got the shack set that will work well in this environment.
V.Q. Leanne pulled me aside one night when I was here seeing Superman and said to me “We’ve got the rights to Bonnie & Clyde, do you want to Musically Direct?” I said “Hell yes!” and three hours later it was announced who the production team was.
C.M. Is the musical storyline beefed up and more dramatic than the real life event?
H.A. The characterisation is based on reality. There’s little subtleties in there which is cool. Whilst people may see Clyde normally as the perpetrator of all of these events that took place. It was actually Bonnie whispering in his ear.
V.Q. He was her mouthpiece.
H.A. And she was his muse. She was the reason why he was doing all of these things. The basic plot is about a 23 year old Bonnie who’s working in a Diner as a waitress. She dreams of becoming a star in the movies as all young women did at that time and in Broadway shows. Clyde has just broken out of Jail with his brother Buck. They’re on the run from the law. Clyde bumps into Bonnie when she’s having car issues. A case of saving the day. They find a connection that grows from there. The rest of the show is about the pair and how they meet and the events that take place when they’re together. The robberies, the reasons why, their love connection, and the beautiful yet dark undertones of the story.
V.Q. There are funny and quirky moments throughout the show that lighten to mood.
C.M. What’s the scoring like for the band?
V.Q. It’s very different from anything that I’ve done before. At the Fab Factory we tend to work on the bare basics. But thanks to quality musicians it always sounds much bigger.
C.M. You mentioned a bluegrass feel. Is it similar to something like Porgy and Bess in the way that they were trying to purvey the musical ideas?
V.Q. It’s an interesting score in the sense that part of it is a bit Jazzy, some of it is straight out Rockabilly, some of it is Bluegrass, some of it is Pop-like, and some of it is mainstream Broadway. And sometimes it’s pulled right back to really beautiful ballads.
C.M. You’ve mentioned at least three musical styles including: Jazz, Rockabilly, and Mainstream Broadway Pop. If you had to relay that to three different Composers of those different genres…
V.Q. It’s still early days in terms of the production and the ideas will develop. When I ask my cast to perform I want to see what they can do. I don’t believe in just replicating what we hear in someone else’s interpretation. I believe in making things our own. I like to be really original with the interpretations that I bring to a show.
H.A. A lot of the time we have to scale things down. We scale things to a way that is unique and can’t be found in any other theatre. This is not a conventional space. We don’t want our actors to be portraying the Broadway stars.
C.M. From the photographs I’ve seen of the Superman production, things are very different from other theatres. The sets are visually stunning. Is this one of the things that Fab Nobs strives to do that is so completely different that it is a niche unto itself?
H.A. It’s all about being unique and it’s all about giving the audience something different. We always strive here to bring the audience something completely new. That’s why productions like Xanadu work so well here.
V.Q. We do shows that people have never heard of and ask what is that? That has given Fab Nobs a great reputation for things that are exciting and things that are forcing people to look outside the box.
H.A. It’s a really good draw card for new people. Having shows that are not so conventional will draw new people into auditions. That’s what we want. We’d love to have someone new come and play Bonnie and Clyde.
C.M. You’re in the process of preparing for auditions and casting. What are your ideas for how you want the story to be portrayed?
H.A. It has to be raw on a level that brings a believable characterisation to the stage. When people come to the audition they have a lot to do during the process. They have to sing two songs, give us a monologue, and they could potentially be reading part of the script as well. This script leans so well to people exposing themselves to raw emotion. That’s one of my main things. And allowing them to connect with the audience. I want to see that in the audition. The scripting of the show is beautifully executed. There are highs, lows, funny moments. The actor has to be really diverse and be prepared to really dive into it.
V.Q. I’m a big fan of the word organic. That’s what I like to try and create.
H.A. And it is an organic show. The way that it’s constructed is simple. But it’s beautiful and organic.
C.M. Can I please get you to expand a bit on the terminology organic?
H.A. Something unique.
V.Q. We’re not all bank robbers and wannabe actresses. But, we all have feelings that these people would have felt. It’s an emotional role. We want to believe them. And for interpretation, I like to not get caught up too much in how I think it should be. Cast members will often bring their own interpretation that might be something so incredible that I may not have considered. It might be the delivery of one line in a song that can totally change its meaning.
H.A. We want the two to stand on par. And that’s something that’s going to be unique for this show.
V.Q. There’s no hiding behind either. You can’t use the excuse that you’re a really good singer but you can’t act very well. We’re after a double threat.
C.M. It’s opening night. The house lights have just dimmed, if they’re dimming of course. The chattering of an excited audience grows softer and then quiet. What are your thoughts?
H.A. You’re in that moment at that time. Specifically, you’re telling yourself that this is happening. This is real.
V.Q. All the work, here we are.
H.A. I think that once you get passed that first show you can almost begin to reflect on it. I will be proud of what we bring onto the stage. I know that it will be awesome. We are a good team. And we are a strong team. Without doubt that will produce a fantastic show.
V.Q. We want people to come in a wow us! Own it and have fun. Enjoy what they’re doing. Owning it and trusting themselves makes it so much stronger. Regardless of what standard of talent they are. If they can just trust themselves. We’re about helping people develop.
Audition for Bonnie & Clyde will run on June 7, 2014 and June 9, 2014. See the theatrepeople.com.au auditions page for more information.