Inside BONNIE & CLYDE Part One: Fact Vs. Fiction

Inside BONNIE & CLYDE Part One: Fact Vs. Fiction

Pictured: Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker

In this 4-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Kokandy Productions’ BONNIE & CLYDE through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past INSIDE articles, click here.


By Spencer Neiman

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were not good at robbing banks. They did not steal their way into a life of luxury before they met their death at the ages of 25 and 23, respectively. But that didn’t stop newspapers, magazines, movies, and now a musical from consistently portraying this infamous couple as more glamorous than they actually were. During the depression, printing exciting and scandalous stories about the lives of infamous criminals was a great way to sell papers. And embellishing their lives has proved lucrative for decades.

In reality, Clyde Barrow stood at a height of 5’6”, far from Warren Beatty’s 6’2”, and limped for the last few years of his life. In an attempt to get out of his prison work detail, Clyde cut off two of his own toes. But timing was not in Clyde’s favor – he happened to be released on parole later that week. He escaped capture many times through a combination of fearless driving and dumb luck. Though his reckless driving sometimes led to catastrophe. One night Clyde crashed their car, leaving Bonnie’s leg burned so badly that she remained unable to walk for the rest of her life. The sensationalism of media has left out some of these un-sexy details, leading people to believe that Bonnie and Clyde lived a fantastically adventurous life filled with fast cars and tons of money.

In preparing to direct this production, I have been grappling with the difference between who Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow actually were, and who the characters of Bonnie and Clyde are, as written for the stage by Frank Wildhorn, Don Black and Ivan Menchell. My job is to tell the story written in the libretto not the story written in a history book. I wrestle with how to use their real lives, their real struggles to inform this musical.

The first time I read the script, there was one line in particular that stuck out to me. Clyde says, “I ain’t never gonna be set free. Freedom is somethin’ I gotta steal.” It has continued to be my anchor into their world. Bonnie and Clyde came of age during The Great Depression. They lived in a world without opportunity. A world where their families often could not make ends meet. Bonnie and Clyde were pushed to make the choices they made because they saw no other way to achieve who they wanted to become. With the depression in mind, the designers have rooted the world of our play in a dusty, dilapidated time. Their designs are going to focus the audience and clarify why Bonnie and Clyde attempt to steal their way into a different life.

Kokandy Productions BONNIE & CLYDE runs August 27th – October 15th. For more information visit kokandyproductions.com.

About author

Spencer Neiman

(Director) returns to Kokandy Productions, previously working as a director with the company’s New Works Initiative. Credits include work with The Hypocrites, Griffin Theatre Company, Windy City Playhouse, co-founder/director of site-specific, new work event series party/theater/party and associate director for Million Dollar Quartet on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Spencer has recently gotten involved in local politics and serves as the Volunteer Outreach Coordinator for Ameya Pawar’s gubernatorial campaign. Proud Northwestern graduate.

Comments
  • Longtime B&C researcher#1

    August 21, 2017

    Jeez. You same to dislike your subjects. Bonnie and Clyde were not THAT inept. That’s become myth now. True, that they botched a few jobs (and the 1967 film and 2011 musical do portray this, btw), but they also had periods when they were living on easy street, particularly that first year (1932-1933). It’s only after the raid in Joplin in the spring of 1933, when the photos were discovered and splashed everywhere, that they gained national notoriety and things became harder for them. For example, Bonnie’s accident occurred shortly afterward, because they were constantly on the go after that deadly shootout. Furthermore, Bonnie and Clyde may not have been movie star glamorous, but they did take pride in their appearance and tried to wear the best clothes/shoes/hats when they could. In fact, one of the requirements to be in the Barrow Gang was to dress sharply (the Broadway musical showed this during the reprise of “Raise a Little Hell” as Clyde dresses Buck from his overalls to pinstripe suits during the course of the song). One more thing, while the ’67 movie may have glamorized them just a bit, the musical actually depicts that things weren’t that great on the run IF YOU READ THE LIBRETTO!!! Bonnie often complains, they get shot (at) repeatedly, they resort to living in low-rent motels, Bonnie looks forward to the family visits ’cause there will be food, etc. In short, the musical is pretty accurate. I was satisfied, as a longtime reader of the two.

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