Bonnie & Clyde the musical might sound like something of a Simpson’s cutaway gag, and it’s true the 2009 show didn’t do great business on Broadway; but it has had a life beyond New York in the years since. A dramatic plot of crime and romance and plenty of strong, catchy numbers (courtesy of Don Black and Frank Wildhorn) make for an entertaining tale that does not outstay its welcome. Beginning with the expected 1920s Chicago/ Bugsy Malone schtick, it soon develops into a contemporary musical exploring the doomed romance of two of 20th century America’s most notorious criminals.
It’s a relief that the show does not necessarily glamourise the duo – Clyde Barrow is an unredeemable, nasty piece of work throughout, while Bonnie Parker is narcissistic and dim. Yet, it’s a fascinating tale that is not just a love story but has a wider political context too, taking place as it does in the aftermath of the Great Depression.
Hard to believe it’s been twelve months since What We Did Next’s last major ensemble production, Carousel; with director Shaun Holdom-Eyles again at the helm, Bonnie & Clyde maintains the company’s high standards, commitment to quality community productions, and refreshing programming.
WWDN regular Jak Malone navigated Clyde’s damaged, psychotic swagger with ease (his Raise a Little Hell was a highlight), and met his match in newcomer and fellow LIPA student Izzi Feld. While both will surely go on to bigger things, Feld’s crystal clear, Disney-princess vocal and natural, confident connection with the audience stole the show on this occasion. Assisted by Clyde’s misguidedly loyal dope of a brother Buck (Tom Lox) and his wife Blanche (Julie Evans), the outlaws evade police across several states while becoming urban legends – even signing autographs, fuelling Bonnie’s dubious desperation for fame (as illustrated by Charlotte Dawson, playing a young Bonnie, in her enjoyable and evocative number Picture Show).
With faultless full band located in the upper storey of the set and some nifty projections setting the scene, the show certainly looked and sounded the part, although curiously the lighting tended to keep significant characters in the dark in many scenes where a spotlight would have been expected, lessening the dramatic tension in parts. Yet another sell-out success for WWDN, Bonnie & Clyde demonstrated once again just why this company really is consistently one to watch.