Dylan Godwin plays a policeman and an FBI agent . . . in the same show.
By Donalevan Maines
The first time we see Dylan Godwin in the musical Bonnie & Clyde, he’s an East Texas police officer wrangling a young Clyde home to his parents for stealing a bicycle.
In Act II, Godwin returns as a mean ol’ FBI agent who comes to Texas to track down the legendary pair of bank robbers.
“They’re young . . . they’re in love . . . and they kill people,” boasted the 1967 movie’s tagline. And now they sing, in the 2012 Broadway musical presented by TUTS Underground.
Godwin might actually be related to the small-town policeman he plays (or at least know somebody who knew that officer), as Godwin grew up in Athens, Texas, where everybody had a story about their brush with the Barrow Gang.
“We were 30 minutes away from Clyde’s hometown, so growing up, I would hear stories about how Bonnie and Clyde were always coming through town on their rampages,” says Godwin. “A Barrow relative co-owned a restaurant in Athens, called the B&B, and they said Bonnie and Clyde would enter through the back and eat while the sheriff was in the front.”
That was in the 1930s, eons before Godwin began chasing his own dreams of fame and adventure on the right side of the law.
“I always knew I was gay,” he explains, “but in Athens, it was not okay to be gay. In 2002, my parents dropped me off in the middle of the musical theater department at Sam Houston State University. It was a gay mecca, with the spoils of war all around me.”
The next summer, Godwin came out to his mother while they were dining at the country club back home. “We were having a discussion about gay marriage, and taking opposite sides on the issue,” he explains. “Suddenly, she said, ‘Do you have something you need to tell me?’ She’s a ball-buster. The most amazing thing about it is that she said, ‘I love you and support you,’ along with all the feelings of not wanting my life to be harder than it has to be. What took me 19 years to come to terms with, it only took my mother one summer to come up to speed with.”
Godwin also admires his mother’s “resilience” after his father’s sudden death three years ago, the day before his parents’ 39th wedding anniversary. “She’s a true steel magnolia,” says Godwin.
“She always comes to see my shows,” he adds. “She brought my 85-year-old grandmother, who doesn’t hear, to see Reefer Madness [also at TUTS Underground], along with my 71-year-old great aunt, who said afterwards, ‘I knew they did stuff like that in movies; I didn’t know they did it onstage.’ She was scandalized, but East Texas women like to be scandalized every now and then.”
Godwin “loved, loved, loved” performing in Reefer Madness, with his role as The Lecturer also requiring him to play about 10 other parts in the 2001 off-Broadway musical satire of the 1936 cult movie about the dangers of marijuana.
Godwin is a scene-stealer no matter what show he’s in, yet some of his most passionate acclaim came from his quiet turn as Stevie in David Lindsay-Abaire’s play Good People at the Alley Theatre, where Godwin has also acted in Ether Dome, Amadeus, Peter Pan, A Christmas Carol, and Our Town. “I really don’t know what it was about that performance,” he says. “He was just a regular, run-of-the-mill, working-class guy in South Boston. Reading it on the page, it didn’t really do it for me.”
However, in performance, Godwin learned how vital it was for audiences to believe how Stevie comes to the rescue of Margie Walsh, a dollar-store cashier he has to fire at the beginning of the play. “In the end, my character reaches out and saves her,” says Godwin. “He makes a choice that shows there is still a little spark of goodness in that gritty, hard section of the world.”
Among the stellar cast of Good People, Godwin captured the highest praise. “I had no choice but to come up to their level,” he says. “You can’t learn how to act by reading a book. You learn by getting onstage with amazing people.”
The cast of Bonnie & Clyde includes an array of Houston favorites whom Godwin has worked with before—Kathryn Porterfield as Bonnie Parker, Susan Koozin as Bonnie’s widowed mother, Brooke Wilson as tough Texas governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, and Adam Gibbs as Ted Hinton, a police officer who struggles with his deep feelings for Bonnie and doing right by the law.
“Adam and I grew up together in community theater, and he’s my best friend,” says Godwin. “It’s crazy—I never thought the closest person in the world to me would be a straight guy.”
On Broadway, Bonnie & Clyde was nominated for two Tony Awards, including one for its score of rockabilly, blues, and gospel music by Frank Wildhorn and Don Black. “The score is so much fun,” says Godwin. “Wildhorn writes the catchiest hooks, one right after another, and there are a lot of power ballads. Much of the score has a guitar feel, but there’s also mandolin, banjos, and fiddles, and some hard-driving rock.”
Following Bonnie & Clyde, Godwin will move to the newly renovated Alley Theatre for A Christmas Carol, logging in his 250th performance of the Charles Dickens classic, as well as understudying the one-man show, The Santaland Diaries.
What: Bonnie & Clyde
When: October 1–11
Where: Hobby Center, 800 Bagby
Donalevan Maines also writes about Matilda the Musical in this issue of OutSmart.