'Bonnie & Clyde' review — a squeaky-clean portrayal of America's famous killers
Read our three-star review of Bonnie & Clyde starring Jordan Luke Gage at the Garrick Theatre, running through 20 May. Get Bonnie & Clyde tickets on London Theatre.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow's vicious killing sprees and robberies earned them "public enemy" status. Even though they brutally murdered dozen of innocent people, a nation doted on the criminal sweethearts.
So it's a shame that, in a show about their life on the run and putting their loved ones in jeopardy, the two famous lawbreakers are reduced to clean-cut caricatures.
Growing up, both eventual killers dream of becoming "famous": Bonnie idolises Clara Bow, while Clyde views himself as a budding Al Capone. Ivan Menchell's book comprehensively details their four-year relationship and the wider world around them: Model T’s, religious sermons, and the "American Dream" all get their many mentions.
Nick Winston's Bonnie & Clyde suffers from telling too much, rather than showing its audience what happened, ruining any pace. We see little of their attacks, and what we do see is neutered to keep it all PG. Plus, their fateful end is shown within the first two minutes. Any sense of jeopardy is — ironically — killed.
Thankfully, our offenders’ onstage chemistry adds much-needed fire to otherwise ploddy scenes. Frances Mayli McCann delivers a tender, sultry Bonnie who never shies away from being vulnerable. McCann shines with Don Black and Frank Wildhorn’s gospel-infused (if repetitive) score, with “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad” setting an example of performing an 11-o-clock number.
As Clyde, Jordan Luke Gage turns the dramatic tension up in all the musical moments, transforming into an otherworldly beast for "Raise a Little Hell." But it’s difficult to believe he’s so terrifying when he charms Bonnie in a way that in today’s society, would equate to a 3am “you up?” text.
There’s competent supporting work from Jodie Steele, who blends Blanche's brashy self with a whiney voice in a soft, emotional package. Steele and McCann steal the show with a soulful “You Love Who You Love” duet (musician Frank Wildhorn penned Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” with obvious similarities between the two.)
A hard-working if underused ensemble, including Oliver-winner George Maguire as Buck, and Olivier-nominee Cleve September as Ted, do all they can to eke out any subplot.
Philip Whitcomb continues the soft touches with a minimalist set and pleasant period costumes, complemented by Zoe Spurr's sepia-toned lighting. Nina Dunn's video design and projections cleverly elevate the story and on-stage set. However, sitting towards the back of the auditorium, it's challenging to see everything when projections benefit storytelling. Perhaps it’s best to sit closer to the firing line.
Bonnie & Clyde is the West End show that could. After two sell-out concerts, and a spring run at the Arts Theatre, it’s back for 11 weeks at the Garrick Theatre. All the audience needed to see was a smoking gun and that was enough for a night of whooping and hollering. But, for a show with so much potential, it's all too posed and predictable.
Bonnie & Clyde is at the Garrick Theatre through 20 May. Book Bonnie & Clyde tickets on London Theatre.
Photo credit: Jordan Luke Gage and Frances Mayli McCann (Photo by The Other Richard)
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