Home » London Theatre Reviews » Bonnie & Clyde The Musical UK & Ireland Tour | Review

Bonnie & Clyde The Musical UK & Ireland Tour | Review

To this day, there are times when the police find it necessary, usually on safety grounds, to discontinue a car chase. It happens less often than it did, thanks to the use of police helicopters. But as far as this show goes, in Texas and surrounding states, when Clyde Barrow (1909-1934) (Alex James-Hatton) and Bonnie Parker (1910-1934) (Katie Tonkinson) were carrying out bank robberies and killing police officers (as well as the occasional civilian), the local police wasn’t well resourced, with a shortage of more or less everything from vehicles to functioning ammunition.

Katie Tonkinson and Alex James-Hatton in Bonnie and Clyde. Credit Richard Davenport.
Katie Tonkinson and Alex James-Hatton in Bonnie and Clyde. Credit Richard Davenport.

The Great Depression had hit working-class families disproportionately, such that almost anyone who conducted bank robberies were going to garner some sympathy. The greed of financial institutions were, in the eyes of the public at large, at least partly why the depression happened in the first place, resulting in widespread poverty and unemployment. The bank robberies of Bonnie and Clyde (in that order, because “nothing rhymes with Clyde and Bonnie,” so Parker says) had the likes of Archie (Callum Henderson) asking for an autograph, even as they were being held hostage. The actions of these fugitives were perceived as pushbacks against the establishment, and/or a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.

This production isn’t an absolutely comprehensive staging of the life and times of Bonnie and Clyde – the ‘Barrow Gang’ as they were known, had more members than just the central duo and a little, sporadic help from Clyde’s brother Buck (1903-1933) (Sam Ferriday). Buck’s wife Blanche (1911-1988) (Catherine Tyldesley) resists the criminal lifestyle, complete with repeated solicitations for the Barrow brothers, and Bonnie, to embrace organised religion. Ivan Menchell’s book does well to capture her evangelical zeal with sensitivity, whilst also highlighting varied responses to her endeavours.

Having recently seen a show in which a large ensemble was on stage dancing away during a solo musical number, to the point where it became a significant distraction, I have no qualms with this production keeping only the characters that are required on stage for any given scene, even if the large stage sometimes looks very bare. A number of still and moving projected images permeate proceedings, and are probably best viewed from further back in the auditorium.

The songs are varied in tone and style, from ballads such as ‘Now That’s What You Call A Dream’ to the upbeat ‘When I Drive’ to the high-octane gospel tune ‘God’s Arms Are Always Open’. Daniel Reid-Walters’ deputy sheriff Ted Hinton (1904-1977) was appropriately earnest, with his personal interest in the increasingly desperate attempts to capture the dynamic duo made clear. Overall, this cast is reasonably subtle and nuanced, as opposed to hamming up every punchline for all it’s worth. It makes for a warm and engaging theatrical experience.

Tonkinson’s Bonnie and James-Hatton’s Clyde were equal in stature in more ways than one (even if she was wearing heels), the pair being a match for one another in practically every regard, including their stunning singing voices. Played with conviction – pun acknowledged but not intended – the on-stage chemistry is thrilling and delightful. The Southern American accents are, for everyone, consistent through both spoken word and song, and while the narrative doesn’t support a joyful extravaganza at the end, it nonetheless goes out with a bang (pun intended this time). The sound balance between the band, led by Issie Osborne, and the cast was nothing short of perfect.

Surprisingly scintillating, and with more humour than one might reasonably expect from a cops and robbers story, it’s apt that a show about being on the run should be out on tour. They die in the end, and here, they die in the beginning as well, giving them more resurrections than Jesus. No wonder Trish (at the national gala night, Lauren Jones, covering for Hana Ichijo) felt it necessary to exclaim, “Thank you Jesus twice!

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

The UK & Ireland tour of Bonnie & Clyde The Musical follows hot on the heels of two hell-raising hit seasons in London’s West End at the Arts Theatre and the Garrick Theatre. The eagerly-awaited West End cast album was released in July and is available on all streaming platforms.

Bonnie & Clyde The Musical is the story of two small-town kids from the middle of nowhere who became the biggest folk heroes in all America. They craved adventure – and each other. Fearless, shameless, and alluring, this is the electrifying story of love, adventure and crime that captured the attention of an entire nation.

Cast at Wolverhampton, Grand Theatre
Catherine Tyldesley as Blanche
Alex James-Hatton as Clyde
Katie Tonkinson as Bonnie
Sam Ferriday as Buck
Jaz Ellington as Preacher

Bonnie & Clyde The Musical is directed and choreographed by Nick Winston (Burlesque, Death Note, Tomorrow Morning) with Set and Costume Design by Philip Witcomb (Atlantis, Stones In His Pockets, MAME), Musical Supervision from Katy Richardson (SIX, Rent, Jersey Boys), Associate Musical Supervision from Nick Barstow (Next to Normal, Bonnie & Clyde), Original Arrangements and Orchestrations by John McDaniel (Patti Lupone: Live, Annie Get Your Gun), Additional Arrangements & Orchestrations by Jen Green (Fantastically Great Women, Vanara), Lighting Design by Zoe Spurr (Fantastically Great Women, Hamlet at Theatre Royal Windsor), Sound Design by Tom Marshall (The Drifter’s Girl, Nativity The Musical, Curtains), Video Design by Nina Dunn (The Shark Is Broken, Lazuli Sky), Associate Direction and Choreography by Libby Watts (Burlesque, Wicked), Wig Design by Darren Ware (Bonnie & Clyde) and Casting Director Jim Arnold CDG (Wicked, The Prince of Egypt). Issie Osborne is Musical Director and Mike Dixon is Consulting Musical Supervisor.

The production team is made up of Company Manager – Jay Green, Stage Manager – Robert Fletcher, Deputy Stage Manager – Katie Balmforth, Assistant Stage Manager/Book Cover – Charlotte Cross, Assistant Stage Manager – Harriet Saffin LX 1 – James Stokes, Head of Video/LX 2 – Abigayle Holt, LX 3/Technical Swing – Emily Collier, LX 4 – Ella Welch, Head of Sound – Olly Smith, Sound 2 – Harvey Saunders Woolley, Technical Swing – Amber Waller, Head of Wardrobe – Roberta Mckeown, Wardrobe Assistant – Rebecca Tipton, Head of Wigs, Hair & Make-Up – Helen Robinson-Tsingos and Assistant Wigs, Hair & Make-Up – Louisa Nugent.

Bonnie & Clyde The Musical UK & Ireland Tour

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