Bonnie and Clyde – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Book: Ivan Menchell

Music: Frank Wildhorn

Lyrics: Don Black

Director: Nick Winston

If you’re looking for something a bit different from the usual musical theatre subject matter, then how about a show about two sociopathic serial murderers from the Great Depression?

23 year old Bonnie Parker and 25 year old Clyde Barrow achieved notoriety and a lasting infamy due to their bank robbing and subsequent killing spree on the run across the USA in the 1920s. SPOILER ALERT! Dying in a hail of 167 steel jacket bullets in their Ford V8 on a lonely back road in rural Louisiana.

Ivan Menchel’s Bonnie and Clyde endeavours to explain the reasons behind the pair’s life choices: poverty, lack of opportunity, the elusiveness of the American Dream. However, the show largely ignores the violence to portray the twenty-something duo as star-crossed lovers who just wanted to have some fun and get famous.

Clyde is an Al Capone, Billy The Kid, outlaw-obsessed, hot-headed wannabe bereft of a few brain cells. Bonnie spends much of her time fixated on Clara Bow and the movie stars of the day, desperate to become front page news. While she demonstrates a modicum of moral fibre at the start of her relationship with the young gun-toting rebel, and indeed, toys with a romance with an honest lawman, her desire to get to Hollywood and sign with MGM blinding her to the rockiness of the path she has chosen by hitching her wagon to the unstable Clyde. There’s actually more meat on the bones of Bonnie’s story as she is portrayed as a poet, indeed a primitive balladeer documenting the pairs adventures folk-tale style, in verse.

Over all, Menchel seems to have gone more for celebrating these two crazy kids than deploring their vile acts. Let’s not forget they brutally murdered over a dozen people.

That said, how does it work as a musical? It is not the finest hour either musically or lyrically for Frank Wildhorn or Don Black. There are many, many tunes and while most are easy on the ear, they are too similar in tone and completely forgettable. There are a few country tinged tunes and one Raise a Little Hell has a touch of the Bon Jovi about it. Best of the bunch are the duet between Bonnie (Katie Tonkinson) and Clyde’s sister-in-law Blanche (Catherine Tyldesley) You Love Who You Love and Tyldesley’s Now That’s What You Call a Dream. Tyldesley is by far and away the stand-out of the evening. She has a deft acting touch and a superb singing voice. That said, the central quartet of Tonkinson, Tyldesley and Alex James-Hatton and Sam Ferriday as the Barrow brothers are all vocally adept.

The set is either sepia-toned or monochrome. Indeed, the lights in the auditorium are dimmed on entry to create a period-appropriate atmosphere. However, the relentless visual gloom continues throughout and while pretty to look at for a while, it becomes wearing. Philip Witcomb’s costume designs are absolutely spot-on though, and Bonnie’s famous dress, beret and bolero ensemble is recreated perfectly. Another moment of note in the production is at the closing of Act 1, the pair create the now-famous photographs that have etched the enduring image of the pair on our psyche.

The show was a flop on Broadway on its debut there in 2011, but has fared better this side of the pond, with several successful London runs. There has been a bit of re-jigging to get to its present form. However, one can’t help thinking that there’s so much potential here and a rich history to play with, and while it is all very pretty to look at, it is ultimately pretty unsatisfying.

Runs until 20 April 2024 | Image: Richard Davenport

The Reviews Hub Score

Pretty to look at but ultimately pretty unsatisfying

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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