In the opening number of “Bonnie & Clyde” a 10-year-old Bonnie sings about wanting to be like Clara Bow. She wants to be, as that silent screen star was known, the “it girl.”
That’s the perfect metaphor for this musical at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Like Bonnie, it has the elements that should propel to it stardom — talent, looks and ambition. Yet that elusive “it” remains just that — elusive.
To have it, there must be a spark, and unfortunately, this never quite catches.
That’s a shame because there is a tremendous amount to like about this play. The story of the outlaws who robbed and killed during the Depression is ripe for a show. The featured actors are excellent, the set is interesting, particularly the use of old newspaper clippings projected on the backdrop, and the costumes are spot-on, proven as photos of Bonnie are projected.
There are songs, “This World Will Remember Me” and “Made in America “which feel as they should be showstoppers. Yet there’s not a moment when the audience cheers for more.
It’s sad that this doesn’t catch because Bonnie and Clyde (Laura Osnes, “Anything Goes” and Jeremy Jordan “West Side Story”) are perfect together. Sure, this traces the bank robberies and shootings, and reveals how The Depression drove two poverty-stricken kids to the edge. Essentially, though, this is a play of the heart; a love story about the kind of white-hot love everyone should experience.
Bonnie was 19 and Clyde was 20 when they met. She was slinging hash and had been abandoned by her husband. He broke out of prison with his brother Buck (Claybourne Elder). They both want out of their current situations. From the moment they meet, there’s no denying the electricity between them. Buck’s shrewish wife, Blanche, (the wonderful Melissa Van Der Schyff) bullies Buck and Clyde into turning themselves in.
A self-righteous Bible thumper, Blanche says of Clyde, “He put the Hell in hello.”
No prison bars could hold the likes of Clyde Barrow. And no good man, certainly not a small town cop, Ted, (Louis Hobson) could sway Bonnie from the arms of exciting, sexy Clyde.
Of course we know the story before it begins, which is why it was clever to start with the ending. The trick to telling such a story is to tell it so well that we don’t care that we know it. “Bonnie & Clyde” tells it quite well, but it just never quite achieves that it level it needs to make it a bona fide hit.