Bonnie & Clyde at The Arts Theatre
I feel like I have been waiting a lifetime to see a fully staged version of Don Black, Ivan Menchell’s and Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie & Clyde having fallen in love with the Broadway cast recording. I attended a workshop version at The Other Palace several years ago and the concert a few months back but both versions, (as amazing as they were) still made me want to see a fully staged production, luckily for me the theatre gods were listening and I finally got to see a fully realised production.
Bonnie & Clyde follows the infamous couple from their meeting through to Bonnie breaking him out of prison onto them on the run together, right until their untimely death. The audience also meet Clyde’s brother, Buck and his wife Blanche who is determined to try to separate the brothers for the good of her husband.
A huge selling point of the show is the score. It has an enjoyable variety of styles, from romantic duets and solos to gospel numbers, right through to rockier kick ass numbers such as ‘Raise A Little Hell,’ and it is a score that I will happily listen to over and over again, especially with this cast singing it.
Jordan Luke Gage took on the role of Clyde. This role is demanding in so many ways, not only vocally demanding but he has to have a huge amount of swagger and manage to get the audience to like him whilst committing criminal acts. Jordan Luke Gage delivers on all of these fronts and more, his vocals sound effortless and numbers such as ‘When I Drive’ which Gage sings with Buck, played by George Maguire left me open mouthed and ferociously nodding my head in appreciation.
Frances Mayli McCann played Bonnie following her success in the role in the concert. She strikes a perfect balance with Bonnie of sweet innocence at the same time. During her rendition of ‘Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad’ you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium and the song delivered was incredibly moving.
The cast throw themselves into the show with a huge amount of gusto, I particularly enjoyed some of the cameos from the women in Blanche’s salon during ‘Going Back To Jail,’ and Ako Mitchell as the Preacher made me want to attend his church! On the night I saw it I had the understudy, Lauren Jones, on for Blanche Barrow. Having seen Natalie McQueen perform this role perfectly in the concert I was intrigued to see Jones and her take on it. Jones was every inch the comedy queen with Blanche’s squeak voice and god fearing ways depicted brilliantly but also allowing the audience to see just how in love with Buck she was.
A minor quarrel with the production is the book. The focus was so much on Bonnie & Clyde as a couple that you struggled to see just how they fitted into this time period and the backdrop of the Great Depression. This may not have mattered but there were numbers such as ‘Made In America’ which required a bit more context about the depression for it to fully hit home. There were also lines about how they were heroes, which followed scenes where killings had taken place which jarred slightly.
The set was very well done, the Arts Theatre had been transformed to everything from a prison cell to the cars that Clyde loved so much. The video projection by Nina Dunn really helped set the scene and the sound design, especially with the huge amount of gunfire needed throughout helped immerse the audience into Bonnie & Clyde’s world.
Bonnie & Clyde is a show packed with potential, 2 powerhouse leads and a strong supporting cast with a wonderful score but perhaps a plot that focused on a love story but as a result left out what could have been a much more intriguing and nuanced version of the show.
Bonnie & Clyde is running at the Arts Theatre until 10th July. You can find out more and book tickets on their website.