VISALIA — The story of "Bonnie & Clyde" is one that's been told many times. Only recently has it been tackled as a musical. But it's compelling enough to kick off the Visalia Players new season 7:30 p.m Friday at Ice House Theatre, 410 E. Race Ave., Visalia.
"As a director I am always searching for the next show," director Corey Ralston said. "The moment I heard the music [for 'Bonnie & Clyde'], I knew I had to put it on stage. I felt a sense of urgency to do so. The Players knew it was the strongest show to open the season."
It's a timeless tale of the infamous bank robbers in love: Clyde Barrow (Jonathan Wheeler of Fresno) and Bonnie Parker (Becca Coffey of Exeter). Other members of the Barrow Gang include Clyde's brother Marvin “Buck” Barrow (Louis Lyons of Visalia) and Buck's wife, Blanche Barrow (Krystle McWells of Hanford).
One of the versions of the Bonnie and Clyde story that sticks in most people's minds is the 1967 film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. That movie won two Oscars. But it's also been criticized for being historically inaccurate. So how close to the movie is the musical?
"Not at all," McWells said. "The movie is well-known for being inaccurate to history. Not only the ages [are wrong] but the character representations. This show is inspired by a love story between two kids, they were in their early 20s, caught in a rough place just wanting to get out and be known. A lot of people can relate to the desire to break free from our parents and society's expectations and to be our own person when we first enter adulthood. This show is relatable and realistic."
But it's not just Bonnie and Clyde that had artistic liberties taken with them in that classic film.
"I wanted to make Buck more than just a dumb lunk and show the real depth of his character," Lyons said about playing Clyde's brother.
The musical appeared on Broadway in 2011 and features music as diverse as gospel and rockabilly.
"I love the music in show," Coffey said. "Every song is very fun and unique."
Act I centers around the budding relationship of Bonnie and Clyde. There's also the dynamic of Bonnie's childhood friend, Ted Hinton (Marcus Cardenas of Fresno), who is one of the authorities who catches Clyde.
Act II includes Clyde's jailbreak and the couple's life of crime.
"I spent countless research hours in watching documentaries and watching other character versions of actors playing Clyde," Jonathan Wheeler said about playing the infamous gang leader. "I also did a good amount of historical research to understand where Clyde came from and why he became the Clyde Barrow we know today."
Much like the Titanic, many people already know how this story ends. But that doesn't make it any less compelling.
"I’m expecting to get a good audience for this show," Cardenas said. "It’s a Valley premiere and people have heard nothing but great things about this."