The new musical by Frank Wildhorn (music) and Don Black (lyrics) takes the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, gun-toting lovers, robbers and murderers, and places them into a kind of romanticised Romeo and Juliet story in classic Hollywood.
With Frances Mayli McCann and Jordan Luke Gage as the leads, this was a vibrant show when it premiered at the Arts Theatre before returning for a restaging at the Garrick with a change of actor as Blanche Barrow. Here on the West End cast recording, Jodie Steele takes on the role alongside most of the Arts Theatre cast.
Retaining echoes of Jerry Herman’s Mack & Mabel as well as Wildhorn’s earlier show Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, this recording buzzes with all the major elements of a show which may glorify true crime but has all the makings of a cult hit of the 21st century. Productions have already played around the world.
The sound is clear and slickly produced, the lyrics are crisp and easy to follow, and several of the incidental spoken pieces are included to give context. As a standalone album, this is definitely worth streaming on any service you choose.
Supporting cast members Steele, George Maguire, Lauren Jones, Julie Yammanee and Chloe Saunders amuse in the country-influenced number “You’re Goin’ Back To Jail” where the ladies celebrate the incarceration of their respective husbands behind bars.
Dom Hartley-Harris adds a touch of the gospel in “God’s Arms Are Always Open” and Cleve September’s duet with Gage adds character depth. This is a rich and powerful cast recording that has gained a vibrancy and emotional engagement since its first UK version.
Bonnie & Clyde teeters on the edge of the young and tragic as both the leads idolise their screen idols and notorious public figures (Billy the Kid, Al Capone, Clara Bow) and head towards their twisted idea of fame without consequence.
Barrow sees himself as a Cagney with Parker as his Moll – it isn’t as stylish or influencial as the 1960s film, but in the music we feel a real sense of clever manipulation of the audience’s sympathy (for example, “When I Drive”, which celebrates the power of wheels in a rock-soaked piece).
And if all that isn’t enough, there is a smashing alternative version of Clyde’s rock anthem “Raise A Little Hell”, which could sit proud in any heavy rocker’s record collection, plus Lauren Jones’s Bonnie and Barney Wilkinson’s Clyde in another cut of Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad. Hurray for alternate castings getting their due.
I’ll certainly be listening to this again, and if you find your appetite whetted to see the show on stage, it is embarking on a UK tour in 2024 starting at the Curve, Leicester on 22 Feb.
You can stream Bonnie & Clyde – West End Cast Recording from 28 Jul – visit https://www.broadwayrecords.com/ or https://bonnieandclydemusical.com/album/ for more details. It is produced by Katy Richardson and Sam Featherstone.