Bonnie & Clyde
Jacquee Storozynski-Toll | 29 Mar 2019 10:46am
When I heard that Southend Operatic were going to perform Bonnie and Clyde, I thought what a strange subject for a musical, being about two bank robbing killers. I admit I had never heard of the show written by Frank Wildhorn of Jekyll and Hyde fame, with lyrics by Don Black, who is usually known for working with Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The story itself is the famous one we all know. A young church going girl pals up with a youth from a very poor background and they go on a killing spree. Most people only came across the pair in the glamorised film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. This became as famous for its fashions as much as it’s acting. As a result I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, this production blew me away.
The show starts with the audience being blasted out of our seats by the ricocheting of gun fire. As it is most unexpected, it takes a few minutes for us to settle down. Meanwhile, a stylised scene is enacted on stage as the doomed pair, as if in a magazine still, lie dead in their car. However, as the music starts, with How ’Bout a Dance, we realise that the story concentrates on the romance between the pair. There is a lovely prescient opening, when a young Bonnie (Amelia Hennelly) and Clyde (Albert Waldron) sing delightfully, about their dreams with the song Picture Show. Bonnie wants to be a famous film star like Clara Bow and Clyde wants to be a gangster, as he pretends to shoot people.
When they both appear as their older selves it is immediately obvious that the characters played by Sophie Cave and Declan Wright can belt out a tune or two. Declan’s voice carries the show as he is rarely off stage. Sophie, only nineteen years old, and in her first lead role, has a powerfully strong voice and a charismatic presence. What is more, she looks beautiful in the clothes of the period.
Song after song follows driving the narrative along until, Bonnie and Clyde change from being naive young people with dreams, as the American Dream passes them by. Clyde and his brother Buck, (John Staines) are repeatedly jailed, Clyde, in particular, being brutalised and breaking out, they start their life on the run. Buck’s wife Blanche (Heather Cooper) is a strong character part which she brings to life; Heather not only has a strong singing voice, but is a very good actress. I particularly liked Bonnie and Blanche singing You Love Who You Love, about their chosen men, in aduet that is reminiscent of I Know Him So Well from Chess.
By the second half, the story takes a darker turn as the pair go on the run holding up banks and the shooting starts. Additionally, Bonnie’s mother (Sara Hickling) is well played, as she begs her daughter to give up her bad lot boyfriend, and a lovelorn Ted Hinton (Ross Howard) gives a sympathetic performance as he refuses to believe that Bonnie has joined Clyde in raiding banks and killing people.
The scene changes are very slick and the set very effective with it use of technology and video projection backdrops. There is even a car on stage.
Unlike some musicals, the songs move the narrative along with Clyde singing The World Will Remember Me (they will for the wrong reasons). There is a nicely staged hairdressing salon , where the ladies sing that Buck has to give himself up, You’re going Back to Jail, and a romantic number, How ‘Bout a Dance. I particularly like the church gospel choir singing, God’s Arms are Always Open, and Made in America with the Preacher (Johnny Buxton) a stalwart at belting out a tune. The songs change in style through the show, there are ballads, duets, Country and Western and with Raise a Little Hell, a rock opera number.
The music under the direction of Ashton Moore, with a small orchestra, ably accompanies the singers. There is the occasional use of the Dobro slide guitar giving a Deep South feel with a touch of Ry Cooder.
The finale has clever technical effects, with the hail of bullets, and Clyde dies as he wishes to, famously remembered. Whilst Bonnie dies as an It girl, but not as a film star.
The show apparently failed on Broadway, and yet it has some very good songs in it. Also, as the story is based on real people, it has a proper narrative. This musical being almost unknown, is a risk for the Company but they have succeeded. It is a brilliant show, with great songs, a great story and great singing. Suzanne Walters is to be commended for her direction and ability to pull the show together, with its cross singing duets and narrative interruptions during the numbers.
Bonnie and Clyde is an under rated musical. It is good to see an unfamiliar show instead of the same dusty old rehashes that keep reappearing in the West End.
The show continues until Saturday, 30th March at the Palace Theatre Westcliff.
- : admin
- : 27/03/2019