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Review: Bonnie & Clyde - The Musical (Arts Theatre)

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

January's Bonnie & Clyde concert was one of the theatre highlights of the year so far, if not THE absolute highlight. Selling out minutes after going on sale was how the West End was won, so it came with much joy that a fully staged production was announced immediately after the final concert. With a concert THAT good, there were high hopes for this production but how could it ever live up to those impossible expectations?


Debuting in Broadway in 2011 following a premiere in San Diego in 2009, January's concert saw Jeremy Jordan reprise his role from Broadway as the outlaw Clyde against Frances Mayli McCann, replacing the originally announced Laura Osnes, as Bonnie. Telling the story of the notorious outlaws from the 1930s, this production marks the first time a fully staged version has been seen in the West End - as it currently enjoys a limited engagement at the Arts theatre.



Frances Mayli McCann reprises her role from the concert as Bonnie. If she was good in that performance, she is on a whole other level here, giving a masterclass performance as she taps into the intricacies of Bonnies character in a commanding performance that is among the best you are likely to see in the West End this year. As incredible as Frances is an actress, her singing is otherworldly, with her rendition of 'Dyin Ain't So Bad' the very definition of theatre perfection. If there is any justice, Frances will get all the recognition she deserves for this role - don't be surprised to see her receive some award nominations for this role.


Stepping in to the huge shoes of Jeremy Jordan may not be the easiest of tasks but you better believe the always wonderful Jordan Luke Gage steps up to the challenge perfectly. In what was the worst kept secret in the theatre world (and the ammunition for a lot of jokes from me. Sorry, Jordan), he shows his extreme versatility as an actor, going straight from the super dopey but loveable Romeo in &Juliet to tapping in to his criminal best as Clyde, drawing inspiration from his sinister turn as JD in Heathers last year. Just like Jesse James, Clyde Barrow might be a difficult character to play if not done properly - you have to make the audience root for you while you are ultimately murdering people. The fact Jordan does this with ease is a testament to his abilities. One of the finest actors in the West End at the moment, Jordan is mesmerising in the role, with his performance of ‘Raise A Little Hell’ spine-tingling and theatre at its very best.



George Maguire is fantastic as Clyde's brother Buck, displaying a great relationship with Jordan on stage as the playful yet very different brothers. One of the highlights in this production is the performance by the sensational Natalie McQueen as Bucks wife Blanche. Exploring the complexities of her character, she is perfectly comedic in moments such as highlight ‘You’re Goin’ Back To Jail’, while expressing grief as events take a tragic turn later in the run. Natalies portrayal of the character is an absolute joy to watch - whenever she is on the stage is a delight and threatens to steal the scene from our leading couple.

Ako Mitchell gives a star turn as Preacher, delivering some of the vocal highlights of the night with ‘God’s Arms Are Always Open’ and ‘Made In America’ while Cleve September gets to debut a new expanded role of Ted, including a brand new song written for this production called ‘Here In Our Hearts’. There is a revolving cast of wonderful young actors playing the young Bonnie and Clyde – tonight played remarkably by Bea Ward and Isaac Lancel Watkinson. They are completed by a fantastic ensemble cast who ensure the stage is always bursting with talent.



While the actors are all brilliant in their own right, the chemistry they have with eachother on the stage brings the action to life in a magical way that doesn’t always translate in shows. You can genuinely feel the attraction between Jordan and Frances in an authentic performance – none more so than on their duets ‘This World Will Remember Us’ and ‘Too Late To Turn Back Now’. Jordans brotherly relationship with George Maguire shines on stage, particularly on big number ‘When I Drive’, as do George and Natalie McQueen in their own troubled relationship. Natalie and Frances’ rivalry in the show adds another fantastic element, with their big duet ‘You Love Who You Love’ providing one of the more emotional moments of the show.

Great actors need great material, and thankfully there is no shortage of that here. The book by Ivan Menchell boasts a great story full of comedy and tragedy, while keeping the tone perfectly in a sweet spot which never descends into parody or farce. Accompanied by a, quite frankly, jaw-droppingly good score by Frank Wildhorn and Don Black, the music of Bonnie & Clyde has never sounded better thanks to arrangements and orchestrations from John McDaniel, musical direction from Nick Barstow and musical supervision from Katy Richardson.



Expertly directed by Nick Winston who also provides the excellent choreography that brings the stage to life with precision, this is a production that ticks all the boxes, with fantastic set and costume design from Phillip Witcomb featuring authentic attention to detail, allowing the stage to transform from a house to a bank to a prison cell with ease, and stunning video design from Nina Dunn which sets the scene and makes the relatively small space of the Arts theatre feel a lot grander. It's rare to see a show where all the elements are equally outstanding but it's hard to find fault in this perfectly executed production.


Bonnie & Clyde may have had their fans in the past but the musical always felt like it was missing something - whatever was missing has been added this time around. Whether it's the new revisions, the production itself or the incredible cast - what has been created is true theatre magic. Bonnie & Clyde is what musical theatre should be - Well crafted escapism, and this really is as good as it gets.



While it is currently playing a limited engagement at the Arts theatre, I'm certain Bonnie & Clyde won't be short-lived. Dare I say this production is utterly perfect and, in my opinion, by far the best West End show of the year. It's safe to say that this world will remember this production and it would be a crime for there to be no future life in the West End for Bonnie & Clyde.

★★★★★


You can catch Bonnie & Clyde at the Arts theatre until July 10th. Tickets from www.bonnieandclydemusical.com


Photos by Richard Davenport

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