Where’s the rest of the gang? The infamous Barrow gang. Not just Bonnie and Clyde and Blanche and Buck. But Raymond Hamilton and Deacon Jones. That’s just one of the things missing in Frank Wildhorn’s newest attempt at writing a successful musical for Broadway – Bonnie & Clyde – that boasts a large cast and a slew of producers. Emotional involvement being another.
Known mostly for having many flops albeit a successful career as songwriter, Wildhorn’s Bonnie & Clyde has some really nice tunes, mostly pedestrian lyrics by Don Black and a slight story line focusing on the love relationship of Bonnie and Clyde and his brother Buck and his devout wife Blanche told by Ivan Menchell (his first B’way musical) in a lethargic way, featuring a poem written by the real Bonnie with gospel, blue grass, pop, country western and some melodramatic underscoring when the jig is up.
The gang is mentioned repeatedly but we never see them. What we do see are bullets, blood, and a bathtub with soap suds and a seemingly naked Clyde soaking and serenading Bonnie with a lovely simple song entwined around not much of a story that lasts for two long and sometimes too loud acts.
Director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun has opted to make use of cinematic projections and old news reels to help authenticate his production. Sometimes working; sometimes distracting. The clap board set by Tobin Ost with its odd angles adds a nice edge clearly depicting the blight of the depression but becomes oddly tiresome.
Perhaps it’s the symmetrical story telling (Bonnie & Clyde – Blanche & Buck) that is to blame. Not much happens. Until Act II when the bullets fly and the blood flows.
Starting where the story ends with the infamous couple being gunned down in their car, we quickly flashback to them as young kids (Kelsey Fowler/Talon Ackerman). Bonnie (Laura Osnes lovely to look at and a pleasure to hear sing) wants to be a movie star. The “It Girl” Clara Bow is her role model. Rifle touting Clyde’s hero is Billy the Kid and we all know how that played out. An arrogant Clyde is played by the handsome Jeremy Jordan with a clarion voice and a radiant Pepsodent smile.
Buck (a sympathetic Claybourne Elder) is simple minded, following puppy dog like in his brother’s footsteps and married to Blanche (a show stealing Melissa Van Der Schyff) who is always trying to reform him.
An excellent Louis Hobson is the sheriff who is also vying for Bonnie’s attention but she only has eyes for Clyde. They meet. They argue. Sex supposedly solves everything. She writes poetry. He plays the uke, robs and kills. She never gives up on her dreams to get to Hollywood. He is jailed, etc. etc. etc. until the final ambush.
Seated behind me were two couples. Conversation overheard – not intentionally, I might add.
Guy: Never heard of anyone in the cast.
Gal: Only heard that the music is great.
Guy 2: Don’t need anyone to tell me if the show is good or bad. Depends on how fast I fall asleep.
After the show they asked me if I was a reviewer as they had seen me scribbling notes in the dark. Yes, I replied. And how did they like the show? They thought it was terrific and had a great time. They were from Pennsylvania. Handing over my card I said that my review would eventually be posted and we all parted company.
www.bonnieandclydebroadway.com Photo: Nathan Johnson
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