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'Bonnie & Clyde' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

December 2, 2011 | 10:56 am

Bonnie

"Bonnie & Clyde," the new musical by Frank Wildhorn and Don Black, opened on Broadway this week at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Based on the lives of the famous Depression-era outlaws, the show debuted at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2009.

Audiences will no doubt be familiar with the story of the murderous bank robbers from the 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde," directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The musical, which isn't based on the movie, features a book by Ivan Mencell and is directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun.

In his review of the La Jolla production, Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote that "the creators find little to say about the romantic robbers that hasn’t been said more compellingly elsewhere."

The Broadway version stars Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes as the main protagonists. (Osnes also starred in the La Jolla production, but the role of Clyde Barrow was then played by Stark Sands.)

How did critics respond to the musical?

Ben Brantley of the New York Times called the show "a modest, mildly tuneful musical biography" that suffers from a general blandness in which each scene feels "like the one that came before it." The two lead characters "don't seem convincingly hot for each other or for the thrill of being on the run."

USA Today's Elysa Gardner wrote that the creative time doesn't have "enough imagination or insight to make use of" the rich source material. The show "delivers an awkward mix of bawdy stereotypes and sentimentality" and the score is "more ingratiating than theatrically compelling."

In the Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout found almost nothing to like, writing that " 'Bonnie & Clyde' isn't the worst musical to open on Broadway in the past decade. It isn't even the worst Frank Wildhorn musical to open on Broadway in the past decade. (That would be 'Dracula.') It is, however, quite sufficiently bad enough to qualify for the finals of this year's What-Were-They-Thinking Prize."

Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press was more impressed than most, describing the show as a "relatively straightforward biographical musical with some nice creative touches."  The book for the musical is "sometimes middling," but the two lead performers "are as gorgeous as some of the first-rate tunes they get to sing."

The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney wrote that show "assembles four talented leads in a good-looking production, but its trite storytelling leaves them shooting blanks." The score contains "some melodious tunes," but feels schizophrenic. While individual scenes can engage, "overall the show is stubbornly unexciting."

Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News wrote that the audience's familiarity with the characters "proves to be one of the show's biggest stumbling blocks. A whipsawing tone between high drama and silly comedy is another." On the positive side, the score offers "an appealing patchwork of Americana — blues, gospel and fiddle-filled rockabilly."

RELATED:

Theater review: "Bonnie & Clyde" at La Jolla Playhouse

Can they steal your heart? : The musical "Bonnie & Clyde"

A new 'Bonnie & Clyde' stage musical coming to La Jolla Playhouse

-- David Ng

Photo: Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan in "Bonnie & Clyde." Credit: Nathan Johnson / AP

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