On Wednesday 29 June I attended the Matinee performance of Bonnie & Clyde, ’Londons Most Wanted Musical’, which played at the Arts Theatre in the West End. The production takes the audience on an entertaining journey filled with crime, adventure, and love. The cult musical, produced by Dan Looney, effectively informs the audience of the infamous duo and how they became the most wanted pair in America.
The Story of Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie & Clyde tells the true story of the infamous young American folk heroes, who were responsible for a 21 month crime spree during the Great Depression. Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, a convict, both tired with their ordinary lives, dream of destined futures like idols Clara Bow and Billy the Kid. We see Bonnie and Clyde’s tale unfold from small town kids to wanted outlaws, from their first encounter to their tragic death, through an intelligently demonstrated cyclical structure. Their determination can only get them so far, as they hit sudden collision with the law and find themselves questioning their actions.
This show demonstrates a comedic and adventurous plot, which gives relief from the characters’ difficult lives, and provides further education into their history rather than only being shown explicitly what made them famous.
Bonnie & Clyde was originally performed on Broadway in 2012, and now a decade later the show premiered on the West End for a limited 13-week run. After the success of its two sold out concert performances in January this year at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which starred Frances Mayli McCann and Jeremy Jordan as Bonnie and Clyde, the musical played at the Arts Theatre in London from April 9th to July 10th 2022.
Tickets flew off the website when the cast was announced for this show. The casting could not have been more perfect, with talented west end favourites combined with the brilliance of several west end debuts, all performers delivered exceptionally and are immensely talented, despite having such a small cast, I felt fully submersed in the story as their portrayal was so realistic. The lead roles; Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were portrayed by Frances Mayli McCann (Bonnie) and Jordan Luke Gage (Clyde). The casting director for this show was Jim Arnold CDG.
Frances Mayli McCann brought the ‘ravishing red-head’ to life with her excellence during ‘Bonnie & Clyde in concert’ earlier this year, and returned to do it all over again bigger and better during the West End run. Her rendition of the song ‘Dying Ain’t So Bad’ will bring you to tears as she intently tells Bonnie’s point of view, after we see a lot of Clyde opinions on their journey away from Dallas.
Jordan Luke Gage stole the show with his remarkable performance of ’Raise A Little Hell’. His insanely strong voice filled the auditorium with an intense atmosphere that had you sat on the very edge of your seat. Placed just before the interval, the song left the audience desperate for the show to continue, as his talent lingered. I was able to understand more of Clyde’s personality and story from Act 2, where his anger develops and he becomes more hostile, compared to seeing his foolhardy behaviour during Act 1.
Additionally, the children’s casting was also impeccable, when I saw the show, Aiya Agustin played the role of Young Bonnie and Finn Barwell played the role of Young Clyde. They opened the show with song ‘Picture Show’ where we were able to properly observe character development as they grow up. Opening a show is a lot of pressure, especially at such a young age, these two young actors are very talented and allowed us to sympathise with the characters younger selves.
Set and Costume Design
Both the set and the costumes were created by Philip Witcomb and wigs by Darren Ware. Since this show was performed at such a small venue, it would evidently be more difficult to have a full blown set, however when seeing the show, it proves unnecessary, the minimal set was quite simple yet effective and was used in multiple ways. There were many moveable sets which were only used in a couple of scenes, like the hide-out house or the salon, but this worked well as we were able to focus on the songs, action and actors performance’s more. The production certainly benefitted from a smaller venue, everything was so clear to follow. The set also had a large portion of the upstage area that would play projections during specific moments throughout the show, which added imagery and importance.
Perhaps a larger set could ruin the intense proximity between the show and the audience, but then again, would add more understanding towards the characters own lives and the environment they had to face.
The costumes and wigs, although nothing extravagant, were historically accurate and Witcomb and Ware have done an excellent job to replicate this. From colour to style and material, the wigs and costumes truly embody the dynamic duo.
The show features music by Tony nominee Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Tony and Oscar winner Don Black, and was directed by Nick Winston, who was also the shows choreographer.
The songs combine the likes of blues, gospel and rockabilly music, which is an unusual mix, but absolutely breath-taking to hear. Both the cast and creatives have done so well in expressing emotion and narrative through the productions music, whether it’s a solo song or an ensemble track. Some examples include; ‘Made in America’, ‘You Love Who You Love’, ‘You Can Do Better Than Him’, ‘Picture Show’, ‘This World Will Remember Us’ and of course ‘Raise A Little Hell’ and ‘Dying A’int So Bad’.
The limited 13-week run has now sadly come to a close. But fear not, as producer of the hit show, Dan Looney, teased future announcements for Bonnie & Clyde on the shows final curtain call on July 10th. Looney declared that there is a UK tour on the way and a cast recording in the works, which is extremely exciting news.
Keep an eye out for further news and make sure you catch Bonnie & Clyde once it returns, it’ll be one hell of a ride!