Bonnie & Clyde may tell the story of bandits but, if you want to see some actual grand larceny on Broadway, there are two actresses doing some major scene stealing in new musicals opening this month. Whether quietly sneaking up on the audience or announcing her presence loud and clear, they’re making their mark and making me wish they had musicals of their own.
Melissa Van Der Schyff, Bonnie and Clyde: Given that the two comely leads are half-clothed and brandishing their guns for much of the show, it takes serious talent for a supporting player to be noticed in the Ivan Menchell/Don Black/Frank Wildhorn take on the infamous Depression-era criminals. But Van Der Schyff has a secret weapon of her own: a voice that is honey sweet with a dash of moonshine. As the devoutly religious Blanche, she still manages to project an earthy, funny warmth without condescension and once she begins to sing, we finally hear the sounds of the dusty southwestern landscape. Amazingly controlled (listen to her hold a long, supporting note under the leads), she makes the audience lean in and want to know more, particularly in the musical highpoint of the evening, a delicate heartbreaker called “That’s What You Call a Dream”. Even when the script lets her down (why does Blanche change course late in the show?), Van Der Schyff makes us long to hear more.
Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Lysistrata Jones: A smart-girl sidekick with sassy quips and no luck with the boys. Yeah, we’ve seen this character before in a thousand romantic comedies. So why does Robin, as played by Chambers, stand out? Because she’s more than that and her blossoming at the possibility of love–without losing sight of her brain, spine or spiky humor–is one of the unexpected treats of this Greek (as in frat and ancient) musical comedy. (The show has yet to open, so I’ll hold back from a full review until Friday.) That’s not to say she’s all shy smiles and romantic eye batting; Chambers storms into the first act and, without overshadowing the title character, adds a shot of adrenaline with slam dunk comic timing, a great voice and fearless physical comedy. When she bends over in a dance number, drops the coy pretense and points to what everyone is really talking about with a booty shaking wiggle, the gesture is so lewd and yet so perfect, baldly and awkwardly in character, that the audience loses it. Give it up for Chambers, indeed.