MusicalReviewSouth West

Bonnie & Clyde – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Reviewer: Beth Steer

Book: Ivan Menchell

Music: Frank Wildhorn

Director: Nick Winston

Promising to ‘raise a little hell’, Bonnie & Clyde follows the journey of two infamous bank robbers who ‘crave adventure as much as they crave each other’. Set in Depression-era America, with a heavy-handed nod to the struggles faced by rural and small-town populations during the 30s (think farms being sold, no jobs to be found, freedoms being quashed…), the musical charts the intensely romanticised tale of the real-life murderous duo – Bonnie Parker (played by Katie Tomlinson) and Clyde Barrow (Alex James Hatton) – as they begin life on the run from the law.

Beginning at the end, with (spoiler alert), the love-struck criminal couple’s bodies riddled with bullet holes following a shootout in their getaway car, the show takes us back to the start – from the very first day the two met. This chance meeting sets them on a course, the show would have us believe, that was always doomed to tragedy – because, as Bonnie sings with her sister-in-law, Blanche (Catherine Tyldesley), You Love Who You Love (even if they turn out to be a murdering bank robber).

To enjoy the show for all its sizzling charm, the audience has to get pretty comfy with the glamorisation of murder and robbery, and focus instead on the wild romp the story takes you on.

The cast are utterly enthusiastic and throw themselves in wholeheartedly. Both leading women have outstanding vocal range and deliver convincing, heartfelt performances. As Blanche, Tyldesley brings nuance to a god-fearing, intensely morally-driven character who, in different hands, could teeter into caricature. Not so here: Tyldesley is subtle, witty, driven and, ultimately, believable.

The dynamic between the Barrow brothers brings energy and fun, as the Preacher Jaz Ellington elicits a genuinely church-like atmosphere with his gospel tones, and the ensemble tap out several high-energy numbers that showcase the talent in the cast. It’s a shame there’s not more of the ensemble numbers throughout, as several of the slower country-style ballads could easily be shaved off in favour of a bit more oomph.

The staging is clever, transporting the audience, alongside the helping hand of familiar musical cues (think rattle snakes when Clyde is being particularly outlaw-esque), to different locations and time periods throughout.

It’s an enjoyable watch with a couple of catchy musical numbers and some humour and wit throughout. What the characters at times lack in depth, the cast makes up for in dynamism – perhaps not quite ‘a crime to miss it’, but a good, fun evening out.

Runs until 30th March and continues on tour!

The Reviews Hub score

Raising more than a little hell

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The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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