Bonnie and Clyde, Gillingham School

revubonnie2THE drama students at Gillingham School pull off a coup this week, presenting the regional premiere of a recent musical about US outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

Frank Wildhorn, Don Black and Ivan Menchell’s 2009 version of the story is apparently due for a West End opening this autumn, so North Dorset audiences have really stolen a march.

Set in the Depression and ranging across the southern states of America,
it is the story of two young tearaways whose daring robberies bring  celebrity … and death.

The score ranges from Appalachian fiddle tunes, through gospel to jazz dance and the orchestra rose magnificently to all the challenges it posed.

Staged in the main hall, with various levels constructed to all both back projections and a huge cast, the action even spilled into the audience as our anti-heroes fled the law and shot their way out of trouble.

revuBonnie3The story starts as Bonnie, bored with the difficult life that follows her father’s death, dreams of Broadway and Hollywood stardom.

Clyde, older son of dispossessed sharecroppers, idolises Billy the Kid and Al Capone and sees guns as the ultimate salvation – and that “second amendment” assumption is as strong today!

The young duo (convincingly played by Grace MacDonald and Tom Dean) morph into their older selves, and Lauren Hayes and Ollie Stockley have such chemistry that Bonnie and Clyde’s story takes on a new dimension. It’s easy to see how they became romantic folk heroes.

Clyde’s brother Buck is married to the God-fearing, hardworking Blanche, and she’s determined to keep him on the straight and very narrow.  And Deputy Ted Hinton, sweet on Bonnie from the start, can’t understand why she follows the dangerous Clyde into the hell he creates.

Beth Gray is a humourous and strong Blanche with Ali Jenkins a thoughtful Buck. Alex Parsons sings Ted’s songs with huge power and musicality.

revuBonnie4The production, directed by Jane McCarthy with Liam Carey in charge of the music, is another triumph for the Gillingham students and staff, who have created a convincing and pass­ionate story that unfolds in ex­cit­ing action and song.

The music in the show came in for widespread criticism in the US, and certainly lots of it is more than a little reminiscent of better-known scores. It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got that Swing kept on coming into my head. But Dying Ain’t So Bad is a showstopper.

Bonnie and Clyde continues until Saturday. See it if you can – and before you will have to pay for premium seats and extortionate booking fees in the West End.


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