Theatre Alum makes his Broadway Debut
When Claybourne Elder graduated from the University of Utah Department of Theatre, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. “I moved to New York City, and without an agent, started hitting every audition I could get into…until someone finally gave me a shot. I was cast in what may be the last new Stephen Sondheim musical, Road Show (previously titled Bounce).” Elder originated the role of Hollis Bessemer in the production, which premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre, and sang on the original cast recording. “It was literally my dream in college to originate a role in a Sondheim musical, and here I was!”
After his first big break, Elder was scouted by renown playwright and director Moises Kaufman (The Laramie Project, 33 Variations) for an adventurous new project, Kaufman’s adaptation of a non-produced Tennessee Williams screenplay called One Arm. Kaufman thought that Elder was perfect for the leading role of Ollie, a Navy sailor who is the light heavyweight boxing champion of the Pacific Fleet who loses his right arm in a tragic car accident. Elder’s passionate performance earned him rave reviews.
While in pre-production for One Arm, Elder got an audition for a workshop of new musical by Tony Award-nominated composer Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll and Hyde) called Bonnie and Clyde. Elder won the role of Buck, Clyde’s brother, for the workshop. Says Elder, “The show had already been cast for the premiere production at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, so I was just filling in for a workshop of the show in New York City. But the producers liked my work so much, they ended up recasting the San Diego production and I got to originate the role of Buck at La Jolla Playhouse.” The production was named Best Musical by the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle.
After several more workshops and another showing of the production at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, Bonnie and Clyde has finally made its way to Broadway. It stars Laura Osnes (Grease, Anything Goes) as Bonnie, and Jeremy Jones (Newsies, West Side Story) as Clyde. It features music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Tony and Oscar winner Don Black (Sunset Boulevard), book by Emmy Award winner Ivan Menchell, and is directed by Tony Award nominee Jeff Calhoun (9 to 5, Newsies). Bonnie and Clyde began previews on November 4 at the Schoenfeld Theatre, and will officially open on December 1, 2011.
Says Elder, “It’s strange because, although we’re just opening our Broadway run now, we’ve all been working on [Bonnie and Clyde] for several years. I’ve already performed the show on two different occasions and done 4 workshops. It may seem glamorous and exciting, but it’s also a lot of hard work and investment of time. But the people are wonderful, and in the years we’ve all worked together we have become a close family. Sitting with the woman who plays my wife in the show in my dressing room last night getting ready for our final dress rehearsal it really hit me: this is literally what I have been working my whole life to achieve. I would gladly have held a spear in the back row of the chorus to be in a Broadway show, but here I am making my debut in a starring role! There is so much to be thankful for and so many people I owe so much to, especially my teachers at school. Every time I come to Salt Lake to visit, I try to come back and talk to the students in the [ATP] program so they know that they can do it! They are getting excellent training and can stand up with all the professional actors in NYC and be just as good!”
More information about Bonnie and Clyde on Broadway
Read a review from the NYT for the play ONE ARM by Moises Kaufman, from a short story by Tennessee Williams, by Ben Brantley