When it comes to bad musicals this version of the story of Bonnie and Clyde, who robbed banks and shot people, is in a class of its own. I said that Anyone Can Whistle, the last musical I saw, was dire but that was because of the production. The book was accepted as being dreadful when it was first staged and this is an accepted fact, but the show had the saving grace of several great Stephen Sondheim songs. It is virtually impossible to find any redeeming features as far as this version of the brother Barrow’s careers is concerned.
The score is monotonous, the sound system dreadful, the story line confused, the sets hideous and the half Ford car, an essential part of the plot, is ludicrous. It is possible Don Black wrote good lyrics but as most of his words never come across it is impossible to say. Ivan Menchell’s book falls at every stage to make the story worth bothering about, while Frank Wildhorn’s music never comes to its rescue.
It is the Depression. Bonnie, a waitress who dreams of replacing Clara Bow as a Hollywood star, falls in love with Clyde Barrow, a young convict just out of prison with cotton wool between his ears. One thing leads to another and off the pair set on a spree robbing banks taking with them Clyde’s even more stupid brother Buck and his wife Blanche.Texas is poverty stricken and somehow Bonnie and Clyde, who relish being notorious, become almost Robin Hood and Maid Marion figures for the press of the day to which Bonnie, who fancied herself as a poet, sent her verses to print.
In 1967 Arthur Penn made their story into a film and cast Warren Beatty as Clyde, then at his most sexually irresistible – add the young Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and he had a dream couple with whom audiences could identify even when their actions got ever more violent regardless of the fact that they were stupid. It also had a splendid supporting cast with Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons as the other Barrow couple and Michael J pollard as C W Moss, the mechanic who serviced their cars, notably that Ford in which Bonnie and Clyde were to die die, although he is not included in this version of the story.
The first night audience was in raptures, whooping and cheering the cast at every possible opportunity – had they been actually listening to them the reaction might have been different. To be fair the cast did slog on regardless doing whatever director Nick Winston required of them and for that they get their star. For those who collect bad musicals this is a prime example. For those who want to know about Bonnie & Clyde get the dvd of the film which ranks in the top ten of its decade and chances are would be in any list of great films. As for this show dire is not the word. Atrocious is.
Bonnie Parker: Frances Mayli McCann.
Clyde Barrow: Jordan Luke Gage.
Blanche Barrow: Natalie McQueen.
Buck Barrow: George Maguire.
Ted Hinton: Cleve September.
Preacher: Ako Mitchell.
Connie Barrow/Eleanore/Governor Miriam Ferguson: Pippa Winslow.
Emma Parker/Stella: Gracie Lai.
Henry Barrow/ Deputy Johnson:Alexander Evans.
Captain Frank Hamer: Ross Dawes.
Bud/Archie: Barney Wilkinson.
Trish: Lauren Jones.
Young Bonnie: Ayua Augustin, Bea Ward, Jersey Blu Georgia, Lineo Ncube.
Young Clyde: Finn Barwell, George Menses Cutts, isaac Lancel Watkinson, Louie Gray.
Director & Choreographer: Nick Winston.
Set & Costumes Designer: Philip Whitcomb.
Lighting Designer: Zoe Spurr.
Sound Designer: Tom Marshall.
Arranger & orchestrator: John McDaniel.
Wigs Designer: Darren Ware.
Video Designer: Nina Dunn.
Production photograph – Buck and Blanche: Richard Davenport.