Why should you see Bonnie & Clyde?

3. BONNIE AND CLYDE. Frances Mayli McCann 'Bonnie Parker' and Jordan Luke Gage 'Clyde Barrow'. Photo Richard Davenport
Bonnie & Clyde
Photo credit: Richard Davenport

London’s “Most Wanted” musical is back for a new run – this time, Bonnie & Clyde are holding up the Garrick Theatre for a limited 11-week season.

I was recently fortunate enough to be invited along to the rehearsal room to see how things were coming along (unsurprisingly it all sounded fantastic), as well as have the opportunity to sit down with a selection of the cast to hear about their experiences on the show and what this new run has in store for them. Thank you to the Bonnie & Clyde team for sparing the time, and to Jordan Luke Gage (JLG), Frances Mayli McCann (FMM), George Maguire (GM), Jodie Steele (JS), Cleve September (CS), Dom Hartley-Harris (DHH), Lauren Jones (LJ), and Barney Wilkinson (BW) for chatting about the production with me.

Guess who’s back?
Many of the Arts Theatre cast have returned to reprise their roles, including Frances Mayli McCann & Jordan Luke Gage as Bonnie & Clyde, as well as George Maguire (Buck), Cleve September (Ted), Barney Wilkinson (Bud/Archie & alternate Clyde), and Lauren Jones (Trish/Customer & alternate Bonnie).

It’s been a while since that initial staged run, so everyone who is returning seems very excited to be back with these characters – and anyone who has seen the show before knows just how good they all are.

I presume that the Arts production was eligible for the Oliviers (they don’t seem to publicise the full list of shows anymore), so I will say that it was quite a surprise that there were no nominations given how phenomenal these performances were. Perhaps this will be corrected in a year’s time..?

Have you seen the new cast members?!
Amongst others, joining the cast for the Garrick Theatre run are Jodie Steele (Heathers, Six) as Blanche and Dom Hartley-Harris (Hamilton, Moonfleet) as Preacher.

Dom explains, “Joining’s been really fun! Everyone’s so welcoming, as well. And even though some people have been doing it for a while, it still feels relatively fresh.” Cleve continues, “It’s a joy welcoming people; I’ve worked with Dom before, so it was so great to be working with him again. I’ve very quickly worked with Jodie, but we’ve always wanted to work together properly as we’ve known each other for years. I went to drama school with Kit (Esuruoso – Sheriff) so that’s another wonderful thing. It just feels like welcoming back family. Nothing but pure joy and excitement and thrill to have fresh faces, but also fresh faces that I’m very familiar with. I’m happy, I’m so excited.”

Though it’s always sad to see people leave a production, the addition of new cast members does help to keep everything fresh – and it means you get new stage partnerships forming, such as the one between the new Buck & Blanche Barrow…

JS: “How has it been welcoming me, George?”
GM: “Well… I don’t know yet! No, it’s been a dream – and it’s given it a fresh approach, in terms of the scenes we do together. We’ve re-blocked and reworked if it didn’t feel right, so it feels like the same show but different – in a good way.”
JS: “It’s been amazing joining the team, it’s been so smooth, everyone’s so lovely, and if I come with an idea they all roll with it – even if they don’t want to..!”
GM: “We’ll try anything once!”
JS: “It has felt very easy to step in and it does feel like I’ve joined a new piece anyway, with the new bits.”

Which other character would you like to play?
JLG: “Mine would be Blanche… Obviously I’d do Bonnie, but if it wasn’t our roles then Blanche – she’s funny, she’s got depth. She feels present throughout the piece.”
FMM: “I’m gonna say the Preacher, because he’s got two banging songs – he just comes on and steals the show, then has a wee break…”
JLG: “…has a slice of cake and a cup of tea, then comes back!”

DHH: “I think Blanche is hilarious.”
CS: “No way, I was gonna say Blanche!”
DHH: “Especially the way Jodie’s playing it – I’m absolutely sold. Everyone’s going to be rolling in the aisles; the one-liners, the comic timing – it’s mad fun.”

JS: “I would actually like to play Buck.”
GM: “Clyde, probably. Or Bonnie. Or Blanche. Or the Preacher. Or Ted.”
JS: “Any of them!”

Yes, there’s going to be a cast recording!
As well as the now infamous proshot of the concert performance, as soon as the show made its way over to London fans have been clamouring for a cast recording – and the move across to the Garrick is the perfect time to get this under the team’s belts.

Interestingly, quite a few of the cast had never done a cast recording before, so it was a brand new experience for most of them – Frances Mayli McCann said, “Getting in the booth is like singing under a microscope – you can hear everything.”

They used a slightly bigger band in the studio than they do in the theatre (Barney Wilkinson: “I got distracted by all the extra instruments!”), so it promises to be full of energy & dynamism – more than your usual theatre cast recording.

One final thought from Cleve September: “It felt like we were very much able to give ourselves, and just take it to new levels; take it to new heights. It is going to be very exciting to hear that album.”

Cast favourite numbers include: When I Drive, Raise A Little Hell (reprise), Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad

What is the most challenging part?
BW: “I always find the most challenging thing is getting hyped up before it starts, and then you’re in.”
LJ: “So breezy, ‘the most challenging part is warming up’! Everything else is easy!”
BW: “I need to get myself psyched up, to go from being on the Tube to being in the action. There are certain lines I’ll do before the show, but not big blocks of text.”

JS: “Spoiler! I’m sure all of you know… When Buck dies…”
JS: “Not going method on it, but if you’re not in it, there’s no way that as an audience you’re going to be with those two people, so you’ve got to find yourself in a certain place night after night. To do it justice.”
GM: “Probably the same for me.”

JLG: “It does feel like it’s non-stop from the start, so it’s kind of just the getting into it. I always find the beginning maybe ten minutes quite tough to get the gears going. But specific moments, When I Drive is probably the one where I’m most out of breath by the end of it, because there’s so much happening whilst singing really high – and the last ten minutes of the first act from Raise A Little Hell to the end of the act, that’s also like a marathon.”
FMM: “Definitely the beginning, because it’s just the anticipation of it. It’s like a rollercoaster: when you get on, you can’t get off for the next two and a bit hours! Then after Too Late To Turn Back Now we have a short break and then suddenly we’ve got to come back – going from a crazy riot to something more demure, and you’ve got to compose yourself.”
JLG: “You’re constantly flipping between techniques as a vocalist, as we do have bit belting moments, and then the next bit’s something soft, like Bonnie in the bath or What Was Good Enough For You – I always find that quite difficult to place, because it’s in a softer part of your voice, but we’ve just been belting out for an hour and a half… Obviously the writing’s amazing, but the structure for a performer is really challenging! But we love it – we love a challenge.”

It’s a new & improved version…
Don’t panic, it hasn’t changed completely! But there have been a few tweaks here and there (which the cast unfortunately weren’t tempted to share with us!), so if you were a regular visitor to the Arts Theatre last year, there will be a few new things to spot during the course of the show.

George explains, “For everyone who’s seen it before, it’s changed – there’s new little bits of music, there’s little scene rewrites that Ivan (Menchall – book) has gone away and thought about, and Don Black’s written some new lyrics. It’s cool, I like it – things should evolve. There was nothing wrong with it before, but you can still improve.”

Who doesn’t love a bit of true crime?
Take a quick look on the Spotify homepage and you can’t move for true crime podcasts – whether it’s modern day grisly thrillers, quirky crimes, or deep dives into history, we just can’t seem to get enough.

Some of the themes of Bonnie & Clyde’s story do ring true today: unemployment & poverty is high, the rich seem untouchable, and the people enforcing the law are almost as unsavoury as the criminals they’re locking up. Add that together with a selection of memorable songs, and you can’t get much better.

What is your favourite moment in the show?
GM: “I do have a new favourite line, but I can’t say it.” *whispers to Jodie* “You wait!”
JS: “My favourite line in the show is, ‘BUCK!’.”

LJ: “Mine’s the scene where Clyde’s in the bath tub and Bonnie’s just outside listening to him. For me, that always seemed like such a safe scene, it’s a quiet part of the show.”
BW: “I really like that scene too.”
LJ: “It’s so intimate, and it’s just Bonnie & Clyde; after all the chaos you go ‘that’s them‘ and you see how much they love each other.”

Bonnie & Clyde runs at the Garrick Theatre from 4 March – 20 May 2023. Tickets are available online and from the box office.


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