Theater Review: "Bonnie & Clyde" On Broadway
The musical attempts to trace the fugitives' lives from an early age in order to understand how they became who they were. We meet both as children, growing up separately in the same part of Texas, living on their hopes and dreams, and we follow their lives as they come of age and eventually meet. It's love at first sight, and both are totally infatuated with each other, in spite of the other's flaws. It's clear Bonnie would go to the ends of the earth for Clyde and vice versa.
The show is aggravatingly inconsistent. When it's good, it's great, such as in numbers like "Raise a Little Hell" and "When I Drive," a high-spirited ode to absconding with automobiles. Lilting numbers like "Bonnie" and "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" are really quite pleasant, and well-delivered by their performers. Composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Don Black seem to have hit their stride there.
However, when the show isn't good (which is, unfortunately, most of the time), it's grueling. Songs like "God's Arms Are Always Open" and "That's What You Call A Dream" seem to wear on and on. The otherwise very talented Louis Hobson is almost completely obscured beyond recognition as Ted, a deputy sheriff who has taken a liking to Bonnie. Additionally, while the book, by Ivan Menchell, provides some nice banter for the titular characters, at other times, it is downright grating.
Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan are particularly deserving of praise for their portrayals of the title characters. Jordan is magnetic and effortlessly charming as the easily-unlikable Clyde Barrow, who just wants to "be as known as Chicago's Al Capone." His rich voice carries through the theater and is full of promise of what's to come from this young performer—after all, if he can still sing this well after a grueling schedule of rehearsing for this show and being in "Newsies" in New Jersey, who knows what he will sound like when he can rest himself and his voice! Laura Osnes is spunky and appealing as the "ravishing redhead," Bonnie Parker. Her pure voice evokes Bonnie's background as a well-behaved young lady and provides a nice contrast to the life of crime that ultimately proved to be her undoing.
Like the show as a whole, the technical aspects are also irksome in their inconsistency. The lighting design, by Michael Gilliam, is beautiful on a general level, and astounding at times. However, the sound design, by John Shivers, is severely lacking. Microphone problems plagued the cast at various points in the show, and sound levels were not always maintained to compensate for the show's blocking. The set and costume design, by Tobin Ost, are fine, but nothing special.
As a whole, "Bonnie & Clyde" does not really feel like a show that belongs on Broadway. Despite the talent of its lead performers, the whole production carries the sentiment of not being quite ready to play in the big leagues just yet. The show probably could be good, maybe even great, with a lot of work put into it, but despite its runs at two regional theaters, La Jolla Playhouse and Asolo Repertory Theatre, the show is still alarmingly flawed.
For 2012 Tony Awards coverage, click here.
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