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Broadway productions have a long legacy of heartbreak, death, and tragedy. A tradition continued in the 2011 Broadway debut of the modern musical, Bonnie & Clyde. The show itself only ran for one month, and honestly deserved so much more than 36 shows. The Lead roles of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were played respectively by Laura Osnes, and Jeremy Jordan. The music itself can be described as country, meets old school Elvis style rock-n-roll, meets southern gospel choir meets the sexiest thing since David Beckham. Its style is sexy and daring and is nothing like anything I ever heard before. After the shows short run the rights were quickly put up to be performed in regional, international, and community theaters.
The show follows the life and adventures of Bonnie and Clyde, a young couple fighting against poverty during the great depression. It shows the 1920’s-30’s ideals that idolized professional criminals like Al Capone, and showcases the issues that plagued the common people in these time periods; poverty, lack of work, lack of wages, food shortages, distrust of the government, awful prison conditions, and the changing of the younger generation away from the traditions of the older generations. The music was written by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics written by Don Black, and book written by Ivan Menchell. The show started out in La Jolla California in 2009, and later started a run in Sarasota Florida before going to Broadway. The show was nominated for three Outer Critics Circle Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, and two Tony Awards nominations, winning none of them.
The show sees Bonnie and Clyde grow up disappointed by small town life, and dream of things far out of their social reach, and the expanses of their pocket books. Bonnie wants to be in movies, and Clyde just doesn’t want to be poor like his parents and wants people to look up to him like he looks up to Al Capone. The two grow up and eventually meet. Bonnie is married to an absent husband and is currently being romanced by small-town-for-lifer Ted when Clyde sweeps in and knocks her off her feet. He introduces life into Bonnie’s stagnant life, offering adventure and promises of fame and prosperity. Which the couple achieves but not without paying dearly for it, with their lives.
The legend of Bonnie and Clyde has influenced countless movies, songs, albums, and now a musical. What failed the musical? Who knows, it was a Broadway show that appealed to everyone and offered a breath of fresh air with its unique style and sound. But it was a Broadway show at a time where the US majority couldn’t really afford it. So although the public adored the show, the ticket sales were slow and non-profitable. I love Bonnie & Clyde, simply because of its amazing sound. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. The story is captivating, dangerous, sexy, and heartfelt and is just everything I’ve ever wanted. The staging is wonderful, I was fortunate enough to have seen a regional production of it, and it was fantastic. Although they didn’t have all of the technical projected back drops/pictures/newspapers the Broadway show had it was still an amazing experience.
Aside from the music which I adore, my favorite part of this show are the costumes. Especially once Bonnie and Clyde have some money and Bonnie starts wearing this insanely cute maroon skirt/shirt/dress thing. It varies slightly in each production but usually has a slight white stripe/line art-deco-ish design on the sleeves and is beautiful. The entire great depression era aesthetic is really appealing to me and is an interesting frame for such a tragic love story.
Also the gun fights are cool, the show I saw had the lights flash brightly when the sound effect for the gun shot would go off and while the audience couldn’t see the stage the victim/dead guy would bit open a fake blood capsule and quickly have it simulate a gunshot wound before the lights went back down to normal.
It’s an incredible show and I’m completely heartbroken over how short of a Broadway run it had. The cast, crew, and everyone really deserved better than 36 shows. I can’t get over that.
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