Jason Olson doesn’t know what to expect in terms of ratings when the Hutchinson Youth Theater Association opens its first summer musical this week.
“Our main focus, we’d like to break even or make a little extra money,” said Olson, who directs Hutchinson High School’s theater program and helped form the youth theater group. “We’re just trying to provide some entertainment for the community.”
Don’t let low expectations fool you. Olson, cast and crew are excited to bring “Bonnie & Clyde” to the stage for four shows Thursday through Saturday at Hutchinson High School Auditorium. The musical is a little different from the kind of show Olson is used to directing with high school actors, but that was intentional.
The cast is a mix of college and older actors, and the script is more suited to this mixed age group.
“During the fall when we do a musical (at school), we try to do things that allow for a bigger group, and often we’re a little more light-hearted, comedic, or family-oriented,” said said Olson. “So one of the things we wanted to do this summer is maybe explore a musical that we wouldn’t normally do. And that’s kind of the reason why we did ‘Bonnie & Clyde’, which maybe has a bit of a more serious angle to it.
While high school musicals have typically been rated G, Olson said, “Bonnie & Clyde,” the musical tale of history’s most infamous gangster couple, leans toward the PG-13 range. While perhaps a little darker, the show also features an entertaining lineup of music, he added.
“I’ll tell you, it’s some of the best music in any show I’ve done here,” said Olson, who is in his ninth year directing shows at HHS. “It’s really bluegrass, country music.
“We kind of came into this year with a theme of trying to find a uniquely American story,” he added. “And you know, there’s no doubt Bonnie and Clyde are American legends – not necessarily for the right reasons, but they are American legends.”
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were would-be outlaw lovers who rose to folk hero status during the Great Depression – a conflict explored in the musical.
“It seems like everyone thinks they know the story of Bonnie and Clyde, don’t they? But they’re kind of the little guy who, even though they’re criminals, people kind of support them Olson said, “They go after the machine, if you will. That’s one of the things the show is about, there’s a point where you’re in the middle of the Great Depression and you’re posing in sort of the question: ‘Can you understand how people can be pushed into this?’
Bringing the show to the stage was a joy for Olson, who said he was thrilled with the assembled cast, which includes Hutchinson High School students, graduates and other community members.
“I’ve worked with some incredibly talented actors, and I’d say that cast is very talented as well,” Olson said of the 18-member cast of “Bonnie & Clyde.”
Landon Butler, a Hutchinson graduate attending school in Boston with the goal of earning a theater degree, plays the lead role of Clyde. Additionally, Butler became an assistant director to help Olson.
Bailey Fields, a newcomer to the Hutchinson Theater, has the other main role, that of Bonnie. Another of the most important roles, playing the character of Blanche Barrow, Clyde’s sister-in-law, is played by Libby Carlo, another Hutchinson graduate, who has acted in numerous high school productions and is currently pursuing a degree in acting. music in Boston.
“One of the things we wanted to do with the show is make it collaborative between the cast,” Olson said. “What’s also interesting are the families who decided to make it a family affair. There’s a mom who went with her son, and I have a dad who’s doing (the musical) with his son. It was kind of a fun experience.
Another good “get” for the cast was to have Mary Haugen join. Haugen started the Hutchinson Theater Company’s YoungStars program for aspiring actors and actresses more than a decade ago.
“Mary has done a lot of shows and the YoungStars program, and so now it’s an opportunity for some of the kids involved in those programs to come back and work with Mary as a cast member,” Olson said. “I know a lot of them enjoyed that.”
Rehearsals for the show began about two months ago, and the cast worked three to four nights a week during that time.
Proceeds from the show will help fund the high school drama program, so Olson and the cast are hoping for strong ticket sales. But beyond the high school theater support, Olson said, it’s simply a show well worth the price of admission.
“I would say, definitely, in this show, the focus is really on the music and the acting, more than ever,” Olson said. “In the fall, we always try to have a big set and huge costumes and everything, and it’s really a simpler story, taking place in a simpler time, so it’s really (until) the talents of this band they have to sell the show through their playing and singing.