Bonnie and Clyde, Bath Theatre Royal

On 2oth May the promoters of the national tour of Bonnie and Clyde announced its cancellation with immediate effect, due to poor advance ticket sales.


THE musical version of the story of Bonnie and Clyde, with its Frank Wildhorn music, Don Black lyrics and Ivan Mencell book, started life in San Diego in 2009, finally coming to the UK in 2022, where it was rapturously received. Now it’s on tour until October, giving audiences around the country a chance to see why.

At Bath there was (the now obligatory) standing ovation at the end of an evening of violence, law-breaking, sex and true love, staged with huge panache and spectacular effects. Many of the audience will have remembered the impact of the 1967 Arthur Penn film, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. At the time it shook the industry, and was hailed as the opening salvo of the New Hollywood Era of graphic depiction of sex and violence. That was 33 years after the deaths of the famous gangster duo.

Now, 100 years after Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were peppered with bullets as they drove though Gibsland in Louisiana, their story is being told again to a new audience. The staging incorporates gunshots complete with flashes, evocative back projections, shadowplay and atmospheric insights into the world of the Great Depression, with its hopeless misery. It makes the American obsession with celebrity as a way to avoid a bleak real life, and hero-worship of law-breakers, just a bit more understandable. It’s very relevant to the politics and social life of the 21st century.

Clyde was the son of sharecroppers driven off their land when crops failed. Bonnie was a bright girl who longed for Hollywood fame. Their meeting sparked a fire of lust and love that drove them to theft, and the thefts drove them to murders they always denied intending … they were defending their own lives.

This musical version follows the film in bringing Clyde’s brother Buck and his god-fearing wife Blanche into the story (their contribution was only peripheral in reality), providing the audience with two show-stopping duets to add poignancy to the jazzy, memorable score. As the tale unfolds, there is lots of doubling-up for the versatile cast, who move seamlessly between bringing cops, bank staff, terrified customers, prison guards, worshippers and members of the Barrow and Parker families to vibrant life. The movement, choreographed by director Nick Winston, is brilliant throughout.

At its core are newcomer Katie Tonkinson’s Bonnie and Alex James-Hatton’s Clyde, and you never doubt them for a minute. Their chemistry is tangible, as is their oddly-touching obsession with carving out a better life, no matter what the cost. Catherine Tyldesley belts out the pathos as Blanche, with Sam Ferriday as the conflicted Buck. Daniel Reid-Walters embodies the love-struck cop, with Taryn Sudding managing a well-contrasted mother Barrow and Governor Ferguson and Jasmine Beel a touching Mrs Parker.

Everything comes together in this show, harking back to musicals of old in which the story is at the heart, and the music, lyrics and performances make it all the more memorable.


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