Bonnie & Clyde; Stealing the Show on Broadway
Its so easy for critics and theatre-goers in today’s world to claim original musical theatre is dead. But have no fear Broadway, original musical theatre is not only alive but alive and fantastic in a new Broadway production about America’s most famous outlaws. The new Broadway musical Bonnie & Clyde not only combines history, a love story and the epic tale of two robbers but does so in a fashion that creates the best new original piece of musical theatre on Broadway this season.
Bonnie & Clyde is a new musical featuring a book by Ivan Menchell, lyrics by Don Black and music by Frank Wildhorn. The musical follows the lives on Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, two of America’s most famous outlaws. The story follows them from their first encounter to their sudden romance to their never ending robberies. Interestingly enough, the story also talks about how their lives not only affected their family but the world around them. Menchell’s book is exceptionally strong for a new musical and makes choices that widen the show’s appeal but keep it focused on what really matters. The choice to include so many other characters lives in the plot doesn’t sway our focus from Bonnie & Clyde but limits it as we suddenly realize every last move of their will effect this story. Its so interesting to see the lives of Bonnie & Clyde outside of what we already know them for. We find ourselves watching a loving couple fighting for the dream and freedom in which they have decided is the only manner left to do so.
Wildhorn deserves much praise for providing an exceptional score for the new musical which is filled with tunes that will be humming all the way out the door of the theatre. He brings us all around with up tempo songs, beautiful ballads, a duet here and there as well as a few company numbers that everyone can enjoy. Some personal favorites from the show had to include “How ‘Bout a Dance”, “When I Drive”, “Made in America” and “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad”. It was even hard to choose those at that because of how much each song plays a role in the story of our two characters. Black uses creative lyrics through out to not only create hit songs but combine history into the words the characters sing. However, we also does find great moments for lyrics that leave the audience in awe. My favorite being “And I’d rather breathe in life than dusty air” from the ballad Dyin’ Aint So Bad. This score is by no means filled with cheesy musical theatre songs but filled with passionate Broadway tunes that no only affirm musical theatre is not dead but alive and breathing in new life.
Broadway has lucked out with a show like this. A new original musical that is actually executed very well and has a back bone of a story behind it. You don’t find that much these days. Featuring direction and choreography by Jeff Calhoun, Bonnie & Clyde on Broadway deserves much more credit that it has gotten or will most likely ever receive. Previous disasters with Wildhorn have left critics coming prepared with knives to chop this production up when that is only the opposite of what it deserves. The production has lucked out with two of Broadway’s biggest upcoming stars, Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan who steal the show and have you captivated from moment one of their performance. They are sexy, talented and so much more and deliver a performance that makes you want to buy tickets all over again. This production lacks what many Broadway productions never seem to pick up, passion. And the audience’s are are picking up on that too which has caused the revolution behind the closing announcement as fans and theatre-goers beg for an extension and longer life for this production. The fact that Bonnie & Clyde has made such an impact in its little time on Broadway is a verification to all those who have worked on this production that the magic of theatre can transform people but when theatre is good, there is absolutely nothing better.
Laura Osnes, who plays the role of Bonnie Parker, is Broadway’s newest leading lady. Osnes’ presence on stage alone is enough to have the audience swooning in her before her performance even begins. She truly captures the image of a young girl who is not only in love but willing to do anything for the ones she loves. She knows she will never fully have Clyde unless she goes along with him which then creates the pair of Bonnie & Clyde. Her acting is spot on and her vocals perfection which we are lucky enough to hear time after time in her multiple songs. And while she really captures you in “How ‘Bout A Dance”, her best song hands down of all is “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad”. Filled with beautiful lyrics and music, Osnes gives this song not only what it needs but more to create a song that stops the show not with that over the top Broadway number nonsense; but one girl on stage alone giving a performance that can captivate an entire theatre. She is quite literally perfect throughout.
Jeremy Jordan, who plays the role of Clyde Barrow, is a force to be reckoned with. As the wild outlaw Clyde from shows beginning, Jordan’s performance is spectacular as he manages to capture the heart of the audience as a young boy and holds on to that till his very last breaths. His spirit is unmatched as he never gives up hope for his character and his wild antics despite us knowing the end that lays in sight for Clyde. From “Raise a Little Hell” to “When I Drive”, it is inspiring to watch Jordan play this character as he not only nails it on multiple levels but secures the right of passage as one of Broadway’s newest and upcoming leading men. It is downright crazy to watch him hit so many of the high notes like its nothing through out the production’s vocals. His talent is unmatched in the sense that Jordan has a different style to his performance. But what exactly is that? I’m not sure either, but it is what captures the audience and keeps them in their seats through out this show.
Claybourne Elder, stars as Buck Barrow in the production, is alongside brother Clyde from beginning to end and just as wild. Elder is fantastic and just as wild as Jordan in his performance. His voice, which has a certain characteristic to it, is great and has points to shine through out the show such as “When I Drive”. His acting is also great with his wild antics along side is lover Blanche, who is played by Melissa Van Der Schyff. Van Der Schyff’s performance in the production is great but definitely does not stand out as much as the others. This may also be the way though that her character is formed through out the production. However, she is impressive through out as she clearly doesn’t like Buck’s wild ways but is overcome with love and has no choice but to follow him. She meets the end she knew she would but knows it was worth it for ride with Buck.
Another great aspect of this production is the performance by Louis Hobson, who stars as Ted. A police officer conflicted between following the law and his pursuit of Bonnie. It is so interesting to see how this case personally effects him as his feelings for Bonnie change through out the course of the show. While he is one of the minor characters of the show, he does get points to express his feelings not only in multiple scenes with Bonnie but also in song as their story progresses. His role, while it may seem minor, is just one of the few people who we get to see first hand how the lives of Bonnie & Clyde effected and disturbed through out their criminal spree and love life.
The ensemble in the show is also great as they are used for a variety of roles through out the production. From church-goers to customers in the hold ups, the ensemble doesn’t really have a big number for just them but they each are featured with a solo line or two in several places through out the show. And while some would say that this production is missing a big ensemble Broadway number, I don’t think it calls for it. The idea of no big ensemble number but being featured through out pushes the story along and has us never lose sight of the overall story.
The production also scores big on all levels when it comes to the technical aspects! Again, Bonnie & Clyde becomes a Broadway musical that doesn’t rely on the technical effects for the audiences pleasure but places excellent technical aspects behind an already excellent production only adding to the value. The set, design by Tobin Ost, is a network of wooden doors and platforms. One of the coolest and inventive set designs I have seen in a while, the set moves up and down and side to side to allow multiple locations on the set at once and allow multiple aspects of the story to be explained. The great thing is the set never overwhelms you with how much it has to offer. It gives what it needs to allow the magic of the production but also throws in the history we need to know. The lighting, designed by Michael Gilliam, is magnificant to say the least! Using shadows and silhouettes through out the production, the lighting is beautiful never over taking what is happening on stage. Hands down some of the best lighting work on Broadway this year is seen in this production. The costume design, also by Tobin Ost, is perfect and time period appropriate. Its refreshing to see these old times costumes brought to life in a new era on stage. Another fantastic job is how well the costumes have been created to mock actual real life clothing worn by the famous duo. The production also uses a variety of projections, designed by Aaron Rhyne, through out the show to help tell the story. What is nice is that these projects never take away from what is happening on stage but become the backbone to the story the actors are telling. All the photos and video clips shown through out the show are real life images taken of the people the story is about. It actually makes the story more emotional I think to see these real life people being portrayed on stage but knowing they existed. This story is more real then one thinks and the different perspective on it overall really is interesting to take into account. This production has definitely done its homework when it comes to all the historical aspects of this production. Nothing technical seems out of place and just doesn’t belong which is so easy for older new musicals created to fall into.
Nothing is more frustrating to see fantastic original musical theatre alive and no one giving it the chance it deserves. And that is the story of Bonnie & Clyde on Broadway.
I would encourage everyone to run not walk to experience Bonnie & Clyde on Broadway while they can. This is truly a one of a kind musical not only this season but in general. Proving to us that original musical theatre is alive and well – it is truly a crime to close a Broadway show this good. Bonnie & Clyde will shutter on Broadway December 30th, 2011. However, an official cast recording is set to be recorded and will be released at a later date. For more information, check out Bonnie & Clyde’s Official Broadway Website. Thank you to Playbill.com for the photos used in this blog post! Don’t miss this killer production on Broadway before the gig is up!