Cult musical ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ didn’t do massively well Stateside despite fan favourites Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes being on top form, but it was embraced by London audiences at its Drury Lane concert in January 2022, which saw Jordan reprising his Broadway performance as Clyde and newcomer Frances Mayli McCann as Bonnie. The success of the concert led to a run at the London’s Arts Theatre later last year, again featuring McCann as Bonnie with ‘& Juliet’s Jordan Luke Gage as Clyde. Proving you can’t keep a good show down, the musical is back in London again in 2023, with a new production running at the capital’s Garrick Theatre.
Legendary outlaws Bonnie Parker (Frances Mayli McCann) and Clyde Barrow (Jordan Luke Gage) meet at the side of the road following Clyde’s escape from prison for robbery and theft, and despite Bonnie’s better judgment, she can’t deny her attraction to the bad boy. The two share their dreams (hers of fame as a singer, his of a carefree life living on money he didn’t earn), and make plans for a life together. Clyde’s brother Buck (George Maguire), who escaped with him, is pressured to go back to jail by his wife Blanche (Jodie Steele), something which Clyde refuses to do, and soon the foursome are caught in a game of right and wrong as the seriousness of Clyde’s crimes start to grow, loyalties are tested, and the days begin to count down to the ill-fated lovers’ final dramatic end.
Fans of ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ who’ve followed the show since the Drury Lane concert will be thrilled to see how far the show has come, and what great shape it’s in now. It feels at its strongest, having matured and grown into its own security. Director Nick Winston keeps things edgy while honouring the 1930s time period, and really nails classic gangster tone while ensuring the doomed romance always aligns with it. The production is wonderful to look at, with Philip Witcomb’s set and costumes delivering the wilderness of the Depression era and effortless cool of the lifestyle that Bonnie and Clyde are aspiring to live, helped further by Zoe Spurr’s lighting and some impressive video design by Nina Dunn.
Frank Wildhorn’s musicals haven’t seen a great deal of success on UK stages, and the composer has faced criticism for his shows lacking individuality and identity, with some saying any song could be lifted from any of his shows into another with no-one really being any the wiser. ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ strongly defies this criticism, with its mix of rockabilly, blues, country and gospel feeling cohesive, unique and memorable. Don Black’s lyrics blend in brilliantly, observing the want for living a better life to its fullest, and Ivan Menchell’s book is a witty and engaging journey that puts its flawed characters front and centre.
There must be something in the name ‘Jordan’, as Gage is more than a vocal match for his Broadway predecessor, hitting the score’s big notes with ease while remaining effortlessly charming throughout. Gage has clearly honed his rock craft following his stint in ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, and the result pays off brilliantly here, culminating in a rafter-shaking “Raise A Little Hell” which hits like a bullet between the eyes. McCann continues to be fantastic as Bonnie, and audiences who first caught her at Drury Lane will feel proud of how strong she’s grown in the role since that debut. Confident, assured, and sassy with vulnerability, she’s a knockout. Another highlight is Jodie Steele’s Blanche, taking over from Natalie McQueen and making the character completely her own with strong comedic choices and a soaring voice. It’s great to see Steele in a different type of role, a far cry from Heather Chandler and Katherine Howard, and she really shows new levels of skill here.
While there will be naysayers criticising “yet another American import” taking its piece of the UK theatre scene, when they’re as good as this one, it should be allowed to get behind the wheel of that stolen car and drive as fast as it can. ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ deserves to become London’s “Most Wanted” new hit, with a fantastic original score and some killer lead performances, something as entertaining as this really should be against the law.
‘Bonnie & Clyde’ runs at London’s Garrick Theatre until Saturday 20th May 2023.
You can find tickets from £24 here (and you can use the code LTR8 for an extra 8% off).
Review: Rob Bartley Photo: The Other Richard