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Bonnie & Clyde - Norwich Theatre Royal (12.03.2024)


The infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde roared into Norwich Theatre Royal last night to raise a little hell, as the West End and Broadway hit musical reached the fine city on the latest leg of its first-ever UK tour.

 

Bonnie & Clyde The Musical was written by Ivan Menchell, and tells the well-known tale of the two small-town twenty-somethings whose crimes captured the imagination of Depression-era America.


Along the way, we are also introduced to Bonnie and Clyde’s respective families, as we see the strain their actions put on their relationships. However, outside of the two leads, it’s Clyde’s brother Buck, along with his long-suffering wife Blanche, who play the more prominent roles in the show and find themselves enmeshed in the mess of the young lovers’ making.

 

The performance started with a bang, quite literally, and apart from an unexpectedly abrupt ending, never really let up the pace of the narrative. The rather excellent band had fun with the jaunty score, and the vocal talent on display throughout the entire company was simply sublime. The staging was an inventive blend of projection and set-pieces, with the expansive projections particularly coming into their own by adding an extra layer to the slower, more stripped-back musical numbers.

 

Though Jaz Ellington’s soulful gospel qualities threatened to steal the show as the preacher, particularly during the wonderful ensemble number God’s Arms Are Always Open, we were also treated to soaring vocals and gorgeous harmonies from Katie Tonkinson and Catherine Tyldesley as Bonnie and Blanche. My personal favourite though was Alex James-Hatton as Clyde, whose tone was just a dream and I particularly enjoyed his duet with Sam Ferriday (Buck) and their sprightly choreographed routine for When I Drive.


 

Despite my adoration for almost every element of the production, there were a couple of aspects that troubled me. Firstly, there was quite a cheer that emanated from the audience when Clyde went on a violent rampage to escape from prison. I can’t blame the audience for siding with Clyde, but it was disconcerting how sympathetically a rather violent criminal was portrayed.


Secondly, despite it being a very beautiful song and so wonderfully performed, the lyrics for Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad bothered me. The romantic sentiment behind lines such as “Dying ain’t so bad, not if you both go together” and “A short and loving life, that ain’t so bad” was clear, but viewed through a contemporary lens with mental health continuing to be such a huge societal issue, the song did feel a touch problematic.

 

Minor gripes aside, this is a sensational show that should not be missed if you’ve got the chance. Bonnie & Clyde continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until 16 March.

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