Bonnie & Clyde

After a strong run at the Arts Theatre last year, the hellraisers are back in Nick Winston’s Bonnie and Clyde as it finally finds a home in the West End at the Garrick Theate. With music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Don Black, this stunningly dark retelling of the infamous pair's story intertwines the harsh reality of the Great Depression with the romance of their legend.

An irresistible, tantillising work of musical art

From the very beginning, Wildhorn, Black and Ivan Menchell explore the tension between the romanticism and reality that surrounds the couple. We are introduced to Bonnie Parker (Frances Mayli McCann) and Clyde Barrow (Jordan Luke Gage) as they dream about escaping the limits of West Dallas, whether it’s by being a movie star or a criminal. After a chance encounter and a couple of high-profile prison breaks, the pair become outlaws, holding up anything from grocery stores to banks, eventually forming the Barrow Gang and becoming the notorious outlaws that we know from history.

The musical as a whole is magical. The casts’ performance is exceptional in every way, delivering their parts flawlessly and with genuine aplomb. Wildhorn’s music is intoxicating as it deifies the limits of genre; it’s cheeky, seductive and has a way of whittling down into our subconscious. Coupled with Black’s lyrics, the score has a way of haunting you when you least expect it. It’s incredibly beautiful music that time and time again proves why it’s such a favourite. Menchell’s book is filled with levity and witty repartees which are neatly balanced with more grounded dialogue and genuine human expression. One doesn’t detract from the other, and there is a very realistic and natural development of the various relationships and characters that we see, something that many books trip up on.

The problem with Bonnie and Clyde is in the staging, and are heightened by Philip Witcomb’s minimalist set design, making everything looks extremely empty. What worked in the Arts Theatre, does not always do so on this bigger stage. The lack of set makes the stage look bare and increases the distance between us and the actors, decreasing any emotion that is created onstage. When the set, action and actors are pushed to the very back of the stage, it all just feels incredibly far away, as if instead of being the fly on the wall of the 4th wall, we are looking at them from a hundred miles away. It’s this lack of immediacy that takes away some of the emotional buy-in and tension that is created, making it difficult to fully register these moments.

McCann was made to play Bonnie. There is something about her voice and interpretation of the role that is just absolutely stunning. Everything that McCann does just fits like a puzzle with Wildhorn’s score and her performance is flawless in every way. Watching McCann and Gage interact is thrilling as they navigate their respective characters and the relationship between them. The childish influences of Gage’s performance adds an additional layer of complexity and tragedy to Clyde, and we really see how much like Billy the Kid and Jesse James he really is. And this depth that Gage shows in his performance makes the musical all the more interesting to watch.

Jodie Steele’s straight-laced performance as Blanche Barrow detracts a little from the more comedic aspects of the character, and instead adds a protective fierceness and strength that becomes so threatening in certain moments that you just don’t want to cross. There’s an extremely poignant tenderness to Steele’s rendition of Now That’s What You Call A Dream, and her delivery of this tear-jerkingly beautiful ballad is just one of those things that you will tell your grand-children about, because of how perfectly her voice fits the song. It is the maturity and dexterity of Steele’s performance that lends a weight to certain moments, so much that sometimes it hurts, but only because of how much emotional pain that she is able to evoke in us.

An irresistible, tantillising work of musical art, Bonnie and Clyde really is Wildhorn, Black and Menchell at their best, which is only amplified by the amazing deliverance of their work by an incredibly talented cast. It' a classic that is always worth seeing.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Two small-town kids from the middle of nowhere became the biggest folk heroes in all America. They craved adventure—and each other. Their names were Bonnie and Clyde.

Following a sell-out run at the Arts Theatre, the cult-sensation BONNIE & CLYDE THE MUSICAL returns for a new limited West End season at the Garrick Theatre. Featuring music by Tony® nominee Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde), lyrics by Tony® and Oscar® winner Don Black (Sunset Boulevard), a book by Emmy® Award nominee Ivan Menchell, and directed by Nick Winston.

Fearless, shameless, and alluring, Bonnie & Clyde is the electrifying story of love, adventure and crime that captured the attention of an entire nation.

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