Bonnie & Clyde at The Garrick Theatre
Bonnie and Clyde is really having its moment in London. From a sold out concert at Theatre Royal Drury Lane to a successful run at The Arts Theatre to a larger scale transfer to the Garrick in just over a year. This combined with a huge fan base means that the hype around the show is huge….but does it live up to the hype? The answer to this question is a resounding yes!
The show follows the infamous couple from their meeting through to Bonnie breaking Clyde out of prison through to them on the run together. Throughout Bonnie and Clyde the audience also meet Buck Barrow, Clyde’s brother and his wife Blanche who is trying her best to convince her husband to go straight as well as Ted, the local Sheriff who has a soft spot for Bonnie.
The music and lyrics by Frank Wildhorn and Don Black is a huge selling point for Bonnie & Clyde. The music ticks so many boxes, from emotional ballads such as ‘Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad,’ to huge numbers that take you to church such as ‘God’s Arms Are Always Open.’ So many of the songs within the show are not only incredible in context but also great stand alone songs, ‘You Love Who You Love,’ sung by Bonnie & Blanche is a beautiful duet and ‘When I Drive,’ is a song that you get hyped up just listening to!
The book by Ivan Menchell has a similar ethos as the music, with some emotional moments and a sharp contrast with moments of really comedy. There are elements that could be developed, the relationship between our protagonists develops very quickly, even for musical theatre. It is actually the relationship between Blanche and Buck that interests me the most. As you meet them as an established couple it is a lot easier to buy into their status quo but their journey is a more interesting one than Bonnie and Clydes. The book could also be developed in how Bonnie and Clyde fit into the time frame of the Great Depression. There were references to Clyde growing up in tent city and ‘Made In America’ tries to develop this theme but it doesn’t really go anywhere and the audience struggle to see why they are regarded as heroes as a result.
The cast in this show are exceptional. Both Frances Mayli McCann and Jordan Luke Gage reprise their roles as Bonnie and Clyde. Mayli strikes the balance perfectly between seemingly innocent and someone with a real backbone who can stand up to, and up for, Clyde. ‘Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad’ is a both note and sentiment perfect portrayal by her. Jordan Luke Gage is charming as Clyde and delivers on the brief of making Clyde charismatic rather than cocky and lulls the audience into rooting for him to success, despite his killing sprees. His vocal talent is incredible, from the rousing ‘When I Drive,’ and ‘Raise A Little Hell,’ through to the simple and sweet ‘Bonnie,’ Gage delivers a flawless vocal performance which not only raises a little hell but raises the roof off the Garrick.
Alongside them are George Maguire and Jodie Steele as Buck and Blanche. Steele is a newcomer to the role but looks right at home, bringing comedy, energy and bundles of personality to the role. Maguire is also excellent in the role and it Steele’s and Magiure’s chemistry that moves me the most. Another newcomer to the cast is Dom Hartley-Harris as the Preacher who takes on the expanded ‘God’s Arms Are Always Open,’ whipping both the onstage congregation and the audience into a frenzy.
The set at the Garrick is also as thrilling as the music and the casting. With video design by Nina Dunn that at times look incredibly realistic, including the smoking gun pre-set and at other times help set the scene in an effective manner, combined with lighting design by Zoe Spurr and set design by Philip Witcomb the action flowed seamlessly throughout. I particularly enjoyed the traditional proscenium being transformed into a bullet ridden entrance into their world and how this was effectively combined with lighting at one point to create a visually stunning image.
Bonnie & Clyde continues to raise a little hell in the best possible way, delivering a show that succeeds not only due to the incredible music, casting and a visually stunning production but how these have been combined to maximum effect.
Bonnie and Clyde is running at The Garrick until 20th May. You can find out more about the show and book tickets here.