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Review: Bonnie & Clyde - The Musical (UK & Ireland Tour)

Review by Daz Gale

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Nine months after their second West End run finished, Bonnie & Clyde have escaped from their exile to fulfil their destiny and spend their time on the road as the show embarks on its first UK & Ireland tour. It’s no secret how much I have always loved this show, following it closely since its first UK performance and reviewing it so many times, it should be criminal. Though it is never fair to compare a touring production to its West End counterpart, when someone has seen the show as much as I have, it’s pretty inevitable as much as I may try to prevent that – though would this touring production be another arresting iteration of one of my clear favourites or would they have ended up raising a little Hell this time?

 

Bonnie & Clyde (nothing rhymes with Clyde & Bonnie) were the notorious outlaws who travelled around America around America with the Barrow gang during the Great Depression, robbing gas stations, stores and banks and murdering people along the way until (spoiler alert) they were caught and killed on the road. Their story has captured the attention of many in the 90 years since, with no shortage of TV shows, movies and even music based on and inspired by them. The musical adaptation premiered in San Diego in 2009 and having a short but loving run on Broadway in 2011. It took until 2022 for the UK to first see the show with a sell-out concert leading to two West End runs  that same year and the following year. The musical charts Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow from their first meeting to their untimely deaths.



 

The book by Ivan Menchell intricately weaves the lovers’ story in such a way that makes the audience fall in love with the couple and even root for them, despite the crimes they were committing. While it is clear from the off that this is not going to end well, brilliantly bookending the story with the final image in the show, it manages to tell the essence of their story with flair and, dare I say, fun? With some light-hearted moments thrown in without ever making light of the seriousness of the situation the pair find themselves in, the perfectly balanced story is a big part of what makes this story so captivating to behold. Meticulous attention to detail and careful rewrites in the years since its Broadway premiere have left a remarkable show which now features moments of real dialogue and nuggets from their own history that are not as widely known. Menchall’s writing never falters, astonishing from start to finish.

 

The combination of Frank Wildhorn’s music and Don Black’s lyrics have created an instant classic with the highest quality of songs ensuring this world will remember each and every one of them along the way. From the opening moments of ‘Picture Show’, the bar is set high and never teeters below that ridiculously impossible standard at any point, with Clyde and brother Buck’s duet ‘When I Drive’, and the two women who find themselves hopelessly in love with the Barrow boys getting their own standout moment on ‘You Love Who You Love’. With complex themes such as the political nature of ‘Made In America’, an intriguing look at what made Clyde Barrow become the way he did in ‘What Was Good Enough For You’ and the tragic poignancy of the beautiful and ultimately heartbreaking ‘Now That’s What You Call A Dream’, the eclectic and consistently impressive mix of songs stun at every turn.

 

Stepping in to the shoes of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow is no easy feat, given the calibre of who has played the roles before, but the pair assembled for this touring production manage it with ease. Katie Tonkinson is note-perfect as Bonnie Parker, tenderly exploring the change in her character as she goes from innocent girl to Clyde’s accomplice and criminal in her own right. Katie manages to nail every intricacy of the character, particularly in ‘Too Late To Turn Back Now’ as she grapples with the weight of where her life might be heading and what she should do at this fork in the road. Blessed musically, Katie shines with phenomenal vocals throughout, but it is her interpretation of standout number ‘Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad’ that truly blows everybody away in a beautifully accomplished performance.

 

Alex James-Hatton feels perfectly cast in the role of Clyde Barrow with a confidence and instantly loveable portrayal of the character which gives way to a more tortured nature later on in the story. With unrivaled charm, he finds a way of making the role his own while still staying true to the essence of the character. This is most noticeable in his version of the sweet ‘Bonnie’ which he puts his own spin on. With vocals that impress consistently, his version of one of the show’s biggest numbers ‘Raise A Little Hell’ is every bit as spine-tingling as you would hope.

 

Sam Ferriday takes on the role of Clyde’s brother Buck, with a great balance of comedic timing and a more serious tone which is crucial for the role, displaying great chemistry with both his brother and wife. That role of Blanche is played by Catherine Tyldesley who takes a different approach to the role, in a more understated and less extreme manner. Noticeably less comedic in tone, Catherine still marvels throughout, especially in her emotive number ‘Now That’s What You Call A Dream’.

 

Nick Winston’s direction and choreography are a big part of what made the UK production(s) of Bonnie & Clyde so successful and this is replicated meticulously on this touring production. Whereas the show in itself markedly changed from its first and second West end runs, this production stays very close to the 2023 run with only the most minor of noticeable changes. While the stage at Curve Leicester is bigger than that of the ones they played in the West End, the show and all its production elements still fill it with ease, with Philip Witcomb’s set design, Zoe Spurr’s gorgeous lighting and clever use of video design from Nina Dunn all remaining as glorious as they were last year.

 

Bonnie & Clyde translates to a touring setting perfectly. In one way, it feels more fitting to see the show in a moving production given the characters’ own touring nature. If you loved the show in the West End, you will love this production just as much even if a performer you closely associate with one of the roles is no longer present – that is the strength of this show and a testament to how flawlessly it works, no matter which venue it sits in or who plays what role. Finally fulfilling their destiny by going on the road, the show is every bit as fantastic now as it was when I first saw it more than two years ago. If you find Bonnie & Clyde residing in a town near you, take my advice and catch them while you can.


Bonnie & Clyde tours the UK and Ireland until 29th June. Full dates and tickets at http://bonnieandclydemusical.com/

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