Review by Daz Gale
The newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane may usually play host to Frozen but while their gates were closed, Bonnie & Clyde broke in for a two day shoot out in what has fastly become one of the most hotly anticipated theatre events of the year.
Based on the famous outlaws, the musical has won a cult following since its all too short run on Broadway more than 10 years ago. This "concert" production (We'll come back to that) of the musical by Frank Wildhorn, Don Black and Ivan Menchell more than made up for half empty houses on Broadway by selling out one of the West Ends biggest theatres twice mere minutes after going on sale.
Produced by Fourth Wall who continue to bring some of the biggest and best names in Broadway over to London. For their biggest production yet, they have brought over their old friend Jeremy Jordan to reprise his role as Clyde. jeremy may have played several concerts in London over the last few years, but this was the first time we got to see him acting in a role on the West End stage. Anyone who has seen Jeremy perform either in person or even watching any of his videos (browse on YouTube - you will be entertained for hours) can testify to what an immeasurable talent he is - vocally outstanding with one of the best voices in the business. Add to that his acting ability and you get a true masterclass performance. Channelling every corner of Clyde's personality, Jeremy is spectacular in the role.
The Bonnie to his Clyde is played by Frances Mayli McCann, taking over from Laura Osnes who was originally set to reprise the role she did on Broadway (Let's just leave that there). Holding your own against such a Broadway heavyweight may seem like a tall order but Frances manages it effortlessly, impressing with powerful vocals and phenomenal stage presence. The chemistry the pair exhibit adds an authenticity to the production. At no point, does it ever feel like Frances is playing a supporting character. She is the joint lead and she will make sure to show you why at every given opportunity. After all, there's a reason Bonnie's name comes first.
It would be easy to dismiss Bonnie & Clyde as a two person show but this is very much an ensemble piece, and what a cast they have assembled to deliver it. Some of the West Ends finest have gathered to fill the huge Drury Lane stage and make it look small by comparison. Natalie McQueen is scene-stealingly brilliant as Blanche mixing hilarity with tragedy with ease and forming a formidable double act with Clyde's brother Buck, played by George Maguire. Trevor Dion Nicholas is as wonderful as ever as Preacher, delivering some of the standout moments of the evening with his sporadic appearances, while Liam Tamne shows off his incredible talents as Ted.
When this show went on sale it was billed as a concert production. It's safe to say they lied. Directed by Nick Winston, this featured some heavy staging that was more impressive than half of the shows currently playing in the West End - even more of a feat considering it's only playing for two nights. While the set itself didn't change aside from several additional props carried on, there was enough there to ensure the cast had plenty to play with. Scenes changed from a bedroom to a bank to a salon with ease. Though unfortunately the use of Oaken's shop from Frozen wasn't incorporated - watching Bonnie & Clyde hold his shop up would have seen a different kind of big summer blowout. If you were expecting to watch the cast stand still singing into microphones in front of music stands, boy were you at the wrong show!
Let's talk about the music. With music and lyrics from Frank Wildhorn and Don Black, these songs were made for a West End stage and, quite frankly, it's a crime they've not had the opportunity to play on one before. Influences from blues, gospel and rockabilly come together with musical theatre influences to create one of the best scores I have witnessed on stage. With musical direction from Kary Richardson, Jeremy Jordan delivers one of the greatest performances that iconic stage in Drury Lane has ever seen with 'Raise A Little Hell' while Frances Mayli McCann kills with her jawdropping rendition of 'Dyin' Ain't So Bad'. The pair also enjoy some incredible duets, the highlight being act one closer 'The World Will Remember Us'. Trevor Dion Nicholas takes us to Church with the rousing 'God's Arms Are Open' and act two opener 'Made In America' while Liam Tamne steals hearts with 'You Can Do Better Than Him'.
I had a feeling this production was going to be special but had no idea just how special it was going to be. Whoever allowed such an amazing show fail on Broadway should be locked up. Having Bonnie & Clyde play to a sell out audience felt like justice at last. With possibly the best cast you will see gathered on one stage delivering out of this world vocals and brilliant character acting mixed with surpisingly fantastic staging, what has been created here can only be described as theatre perfection.
I watched magic being made on that stage in a way like never before. Honestly, this show is faultless in every aspect - the casting, the staging and all of the various challenges they have had to bring this to the stage. It all paid off though as what they created will be remembered by anyone lucky enough to be in attendance. While I have seen some truly spectacular shows in the last 12 months, Bonnie & Clyde is up there with the very best of them and is the first contender for the greatest show of 2022, arriving with a bang. Let's just hope there is more life in it yet.
If you missed these "concerts", Bonnie & Clyde will return for a fully staged West End run at the Arts Theatre from April 9th. Sign up for tickets at https://bonnieandclydemusical.com/
The whole show has also been shot (*cough*) for a worldwide cinema and streaming release in the future.