Review: "Bonnie and Clyde"

Bottom line: Well-done middle-of-the-road musical

'Bonnie & Clyde' makes outlaws sing

Laura Osnes, left, and Jeremy Jordan in the

Laura Osnes, left, and Jeremy Jordan in the musical "Bonnie and Clyde," in Manhattan. (Credit: AP / Nathan Johnson )

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There should be -- and I'm guessing there will be -- a place on Broadway this season for "Bonnie & Clyde."

Certainly, Arthur Penn's 1967 film masterwork of violence and gorgeous outlaws does not cry out to be a musical. And, if it did, vanilla-pop composer Frank Wildhorn would not appear on most lists of feasible adapters.

And yet . . . the show has two of the elements that broad audiences seem to like in a musical: A recognizable story and music that sounds like music we've heard before. More, director Jeff Calhoun's good-looking production is exceptionally well-cast, including a breakout performance by Jeremy Jordan as a seething yet sympathetic Clyde Barrow.

Also, this is Wildhorn's most developed, most genuinely theatrical score. Unlike the prolific craftsman's six critically unloved shows since 1995 (think "Scarlet Pimpernel," "Dracula," "Wonderland," "Jekyll & Hyde"), this one actually integrates its creamy middle-of-the-road songs with the storytelling in Ivan Menchell's capable book.

Too many numbers cancel one another out with big yowling climaxes, which make us feel we're watching an entire musical made of "American Idol" showstoppers. And, more than several times, I found myself asking "So what?" as the familiar saga unfolds with more forward-moving passion than subtle emotional content.

But the story moves. The bluesy, country-kicking songs serve the characters. And the characters grow believably from their Depression-era hopelessness of the dust-poor Texas town -- deftly presented with projections and billboards on three panels of old barn wood (designed by Tobin Ost, who also did the handsome costumes).

Laura Osnes begins as an oddly cold, if well-sung Bonnie Parker. But the actress warms as her character (who wants to be an "it" girl like Clara Bow) gets swept into the crime spree with Jordan's wickedly talented Clyde (who, unlike the movie anti-hero, isn't impotent and who dreams of being Billy the Kid).

Claybourne Elder is desperately endearing as Clyde's loyal brother, and Melissa Van Der Schyff finds both eroticism and humor in his pious wife. The story, told as a flashback after Bonnie and Clyde's bloody death in their Model T, uses two terrific youngsters (Kelsey Fowler and Talon Ackerman) to play them as restless, hard-edged children. If the rest of the show dared to be as tough as these kids, there might have been real danger instead of diversion.


WHAT "Bonnie and Clyde"

WHERE Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St., Manhattan

INFO $66.50-$136.50; 212-239-6200; bonnieandclydebroadway.com

BOTTOM LINE Well-done middle-of-the-road musical

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