Bonnie & Clyde, Springers AOD - Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford
Bonnie and Clyde comes from the world of modern musicals and debuted on Broadway in December 2011 – so in Musical Theatre history – still a newbie! Sadly despite getting a good response from audiences it failed to impress the critics and closed early. However it was nominated for a number of awards including 2 Tony Award nominations.
I personally love the score by Frank Wildhorn, who also wrote Jekyll and Hyde the Musical, so I was a convert before even watching the show. I am also impressed by societies who take a gamble by making artistic choices rather than perhaps box office winners and I suspect for Springers this is exactly the case.
The show tells the story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker from their childhood dreams, through their love story and their infamous death. And yes, we all know the ending anyway but the musical starts with their death and takes us back to the beginning, so no spoilers there!
Using authentic newspaper cuttings and stories throughout projected on a screen, we get the feel of the true story alongside the stage version.
Taking on the roles of Bonnie & Clyde are Ellie West and Ben Miller. They both worked well together and gave an insight into the characters and their motivations. However, for me it was Ben who carried the show throughout. Vocally he was on point and made it seem easy, which is just how a performance should look. Ellie, I felt was especially nervous and I could witness her physical shakes at the top of the show but I am sure now she has one show under her belt she will bloom for the rest of the week.
Playing Clyde’s brother Buck was Dan Carlton and his wife Blanche played by Amy Serin. Buck is torn between his brother and his wife and Dan showed that throughout the show, Amy has a couple of the best numbers in the show – ‘You’re going back to Jail’ being one of the lighter moments in the show and she found the right amount of humour in this and her duet with Ellie – ‘You Love who you Love’ which both ladies sang and delivered very well, with their voices complementing each other perfectly.
I also particularly liked Maja Skoric as Young Bonnie who had great stage presence and Daniel Baker as the Preacher. Sadly we didn’t really hear him much in his first number ‘Gods Arms are Always Open’ I think, due to a microphone issue, but we certainly heard his strong vocals in ‘Made in America’
There were a number of other great cameo roles such as Gareth Locke as the Sheriff, Bradley Cole as Ted Hinton and Sara Mortimer as Emma Parker, Bonnie’s Mother.
Sadly, my biggest issue with the show overall was the technical side. Scene changes were slow and done in black silence, completely slowing down the action making it so much harder for the actors to keep the audience engaged.
The lights often were late at the top of a scene meaning the cast were often starting the dialogue or song without any lighting, in addition often lighting wasn’t covering the performers at all and they were performing in darkness.
And then, especially distracting, we could hear the stage crew discussing the next scene change during several quieter moments throughout Act One. I know I am often considered overly fastidious about such things but other audience members were mentioning this also, so I know I was not alone in my thoughts. In such a small performing area like the Cramphorn, all backstage work has to be done in silence to avoid affecting the integrity of the production.
However, this was the first night and no show ever has a run without a few hiccups, so I understand this and am confident that they will be ironed out during the run.
If you don’t know the show and haven’t seen it performed on stage, then I strongly recommend you get tickets before the run ends on Saturday.