Feature

Bonnie & Clyde

The musical staging about the life of the criminal duo is based on a book by Ivan Menchell and set to music by Frank Wildhorn.

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
New York City
(212) 239-6200

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With 2011 running down, here at last is a show “bad enough to qualify for the finals of this year’s What-Were-They-Thinking Prize,” said Terry Teachout in The Wall Street Journal. That backers still bet on composer Frank Wildhorn is a marvel, but here the songsmith behind such recent flops as Dracula and Wonderland has put his schlocky stamp on a musical that, despite having little in common with Arthur Penn’s landmark 1967 movie of the same name, appears to be banking on the film’s appeal. What a study in contrasts: Where Penn’s take on this real-life gangster couple proved “an electrifying piece of cut-to-the-chase storytelling,” this version is “so enervatingly bland and insipid that you’ll leave the theater asking yourself why you ever liked musicals in the first place.”

Wildhorn isn’t the show’s biggest problem, said David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter. There are at least “some melodious tunes” in his “schizophrenic” score, and many of those songs are performed by Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan, who bring “convincing chemistry and sterling vocals” to the title roles. But a “trite” book by Ivan Menchell gives the actors little to work with. Sure, it doesn’t help that Osnes and Jordan are “a tad too wholesome” or that Wildhorn’s idea of adding a contemporary touch is to give Clyde a song that sounds like 1980s Bon Jovi. But the show’s true downfall is that its “most probing” insight is no insight at all: that these two anti-heros hoped crime would make them celebrities.

Despite “a fair amount of onstage bloodletting,” little ever seems at stake, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. As the show lumbers on, it becomes hard to keep your mind from wandering back to Penn’s movie. “Such comparisons,” unfortunately, “are definitely not to this musical’s advantage.” This Bonnie & Clyde manages “to make that triple-threat lure of sex, youth, and violence seem about as glamorous as—and a lot less dangerous than—Black Friday at Wal-Mart.”

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