Bonnie and Clyde Review
It’s taken 11 years since it’s Broadway debut for “Bonnie and Clyde” to reach the west end. First as a concert earlier this year and now as a fully staged production. I’m not sure what has taken so long for the transfer but it was certainly worth the wait as the Arts Theatre have a stunning hit on their hands.
Most people know a brief overview of who Bonnie and Clyde were but this takes you through their story from when they meet through to their untimely deaths (not a spoiler – you learn this early on). It starts with the Barrow brothers breaking out of prison and while one decides to go straight, Buck, the other, Clyde, follows his childhood plans to become a famous outlaw. Bonnie dreams of being in the movies and of fame and after meeting Clyde he convinces her he can make her dreams come true. While there is, expectedly, a lot of tension, the script is cleverly crafted to give a lot of levity and has you rooting for the lovers along the way, despite knowing what is to come.
The West End’s latest heartthrob and shining star Jordan Luke Gage was a perfect choice to play Clyde. It seems he can no wrong right now and he is crafting a great career. In the last 12 months he has shown his acting range through JD in “Heathers”, Romeo in the dazzling “& Juliet” and now as Clyde. I’m excited to see what he does next, although I hope he’ll be in “Bonnie & Clyde” beyond the currently advertised 13-week run.
Opposite him as Bonnie is Frances Mayli McCann. Her character has a bigger character arc in the show and she makes the transition from wide-eyed teen dreaming of stardom to infamous in-law seamlessly. But she still manages to imbue Bonnie with a certain innocence throughout. Absolute perfection. Frances was also in last year’s West End “Heathers” run and we loved her Heather McNamara. We also saw her as The Mistress in Regent’s Park “Evita” where she also gave a perfect performance. She is certainly another one to watch.
While the whole cast are brilliant throughout no review would be complete without calling out Natalie McQueen who lights up the stage as Blanche Barrow. She’s a joy to watch and brings a lot of the humor to the show.
With the skills of this cast any new cast would have huge shoes to fill!
A complaint of other shows has been music which isn’t memorable. That’s not the case here. The music fits the era well. There was a recurring tune which reminded me of “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” so did feel a little reductive in places but that didn’t matter. The music fits the story well and importantly moved the story along. “Raise a little Hell” and “This World will Remember us” were particular favourites of mine. The voices in this show are outstanding an d certainly do justice to the music. Go to YouTube here to hear a preview.
There have been some discussion online recently about reviews not reviewing technical aspects of a show. The way I see it is a show needs good performances, a good script (including music) and good direction. If a show doesn’t have those the technical aspects won’t save it. But if a show has those in place the technical aspects can elevate it to a new level. Well this show is solid on performance, script and direction and the technical aspects elevate them.
While the Arts is such a small theatre it already feels intimate, the lighting managed to make it feel more so with the actors at times seemingly singing just to you. And the use of lighting during gun shots worked well. The set of this show is well thought out, going for realism without becoming intrusive. The design of the car is clever and the script is well designed so there is no need to try and stage a needless car chase.
Rewards seasons tend to favour new shows as they stick in people’s memories more. As this is opening at the start of the Olivier’s year it puts it at a disadvantage, as does it’s 13 week run. But I hope it doesn’t get overlooked when the nominations for awards come out as there are many categories this is deserving in. And I hope it gets to extend it’s 13 week run as every musical lover should see this show.
I have felt maybe I’ve been too harsh on new West End shows recently but this reminded me what a hot show should be. It’s exciting and engaging with great music and outstanding performances. It’s an easy 5 stars!
Go to The Arts Theatre website to buy tickets.
Rating: 5 Stars