Bonnie and Clyde at Arts Theatre
The musical Bonnie and Clyde has only ever had a short stint in Broadway, but the production’s soundtrack attracted quite a fan base who could not wait to see the production revived. Now in the West End for the first time, the show tells the fictionalised story of infamous real-life outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, known for engaging in criminal activity in Texas and surrounding areas in the early 1930s, and drawing much media attention whilst being on the run.
The musical starts with Bonnie as a child, dreaming of becoming a movie star, and little Clyde playing with guns and imitating his idol Billy the Kid. As adults, Bonnie (played by Frances Mayli McCann) works as a waitress and Clyde (Jordan Luke Gage) has just escaped from jail. A chance meeting sees them falling in love instantly. Within minutes, Clyde asks the aspiring actress to join him in his illegal adventures which can bring them money and fame.
Clyde is portrayed as more of a playfully mischievous guy rather than a dangerous criminal, and Bonnie never really toughens up even when she starts handling guns. The leading pair aren’t quite fleshed out, and their motives for turning to crime are only explained superficially in passing. The audience doesn’t get to feel the emotional dimension behind their actions, and the plot generally leaves a lot to be desired with its loopholes. At one point, for instance, a strictly law-abiding character suddenly joins the criminal action. Then there is the Sheriff who is madly in love with Bonnie, but this doesn’t culminate in any sort of significant deed and remains a redundant subplot.
Most of the second act is spent reiterating the same points and repeating the same scenarios, with the characters hardly undergoing any development from the first scene to the last. The supporting cast are strong and hold up the frame of the show very well both in terms of vocals and interpretation, as well as stage presence. Natalie McQueen is especially bewitching as Clyde’s sister-in-law Blanche.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding the figures of Bonnie and Clyde, but this production leaves the audiences none the wiser as to their personal story, imagined or otherwise. Ultimately, the songs are the core of the show, and fans of the soundtrack will doubtless enjoy hearing the tracks in their original context. Everyone else may feel that more could have been done with these intriguing characters and their legendary story.
Bonnie and Clyde is at Arts Theatre until 10th July 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.