Last weekend I had a chance to catch Bonnie and Clyde – The Musical, starring Jeremy Jordan as Clyde Barrow and Laura Osnes as Bonnie Parker. You may remember Laura from the reality TV Show Grease – You’re the One That We Want. Jordan is in the upcoming Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton flick Joyful Noise.
On the surface the idea of turning the story of depression-era bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde into a musical seems odd. How do you turn two psycho outlaws into sympathetic characters and put it all into musical form?
But the producers of this show have created a perfect storm of elements that made this one of the best musicals that I’ve seen all year. The story kicks off with the couple’s bullet-riddled ending at the hands of the West Dallas police, then flashes back to a young 10-year-old Bonnie and Clyde who each dream of becoming famous by any means necessary.
Young Clyde (Talon Ackerman) sings about becoming as famous as Al Capone and Young Bonnie (Kelsey Fowler) wants to become the next big movie star.
Flash forward 10 years, and we find Clyde has been in and out of prison while Bonnie is slinging hash in a diner.
Under the supervision of John McDaniel, the music in this show is stunning, a mixture of country styles, traditional Broadway power ballads, and a couple of surprisingly moving and powerful gospel tunes.
Frank Wildhorn (Music) and Don Black (Lyrics) had their work cut out for them and they rose to the occasion. The soundtrack will be available in the next few months.
That mix of music would lead you to believe that the tone of the show is all over the place, but it’s not. The religious elements come into play when Clyde’s religious sister-in-law Blanche Barrow (Melissa Van Der Schyff) tries to keep Clyde’s brother Buck (Claybourne Elder) from joining the gang. At one point she convinces Buck to give himself up to serve out the rest of his sentence.
There is an amazing sequence where the Minister (Daniel Cooney) comes to help him surrender to the police. The deep, grave power of Cooney’s voice was on point as was most of the cast. Not a single misplaced note the entire night.
Set decoration is elegant in its simplicity and there are some really neat touches, for example the scenes of famous photos projecting archived images of the real Bonnie and Clyde in the background. The projection design was done by Aaron Rhyne. The chemistry between Clyde and Bonnie works really well: it’s not smoldering, but you can see why someone like Bonnie would fall for Clyde.
The show does a nice job of giving the characters a complete arc, giving the audience an understanding of why the characters did the things they did without glorifying it. But the show also sugarcoats some of Clyde’s killings.
This show is all about raising hell; as Clyde and Buck said, “We’re not going to heaven, so we might as well raise some hell…”
Bonnie and Clyde is currently on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Soundtrack will be available soon.