Thursday, December 12, 2019

#TBT: OBCR: Bonnie and Clyde

Long time readers may be feeling a sense of deja vu with today's column. Yes, we reviewed the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Bonnie and Clyde before, way back in 2012. (You can read that HERE.) There, we talked about 5 of the reasons you really need to add this to your show tune collection.

So why the re-do? Well, lately we've been talking about composers and writing teams, and inevitably Frank Wildhorn's name came up. I've said before that I have a love it or hate it thing about his scores, but I also have never understood why he seems to always get the blame for his shows that flop. I mean, except for The Civil War (where he wrote the book) and additional lyrics for a few songs in Jekyll and Hyde, he's only just focused on the music. So why does he get the "ugh, a Wildhorn musical" treatment? Do people really hate his music that much? But I digress...

As we talked about him, I got to thinking that I haven't listened to Bonnie and Clyde lately. I took it out, and I've been listening to it pretty much non-stop since. I think it is so beautiful, and Don Black's lyrics are just as good as the music they go with. I can honestly say that I enjoy the entire thing - every single track. But what are my favorites among favorites? Here are my 5 tops!

(l to r) Melissa Van Der Schyff, Claybourne Elder, Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes

5. "You're Goin' Back to Jail" - It is catchy as hell, and funny, too. But the clever part of it is the underpinning of resignation and heartbreak matched with the recurring conflict of doing what's right. It also spotlights two of my favorite performers, Claybourne Elder and Melissa Van Der Schyff who were both terrific as Clyde's brother and sister-in-law (and partners in crime).

4. "Picture Show" - I'm a sucker for an exciting opening number, and this is one! I love how the song builds, how the young kids (Kelsey Fowler and Talon Ackerman) transition into the adults, and how it really tells you where Bonnie and Clyde's heads were. Their aspirations are very telling, but also mirror American society so well. Everyone wants wealth and fame, right?

3. "Bonnie" - Jeremy Jordan gave a passionate, intense performance full of self-loathing, ego and violence, but it was the intimate moments where his Clyde was allowed to feel happy and caring about someone other than himself that really brought fullness to his role. He sings this beautifully.

2. "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" - This is my second favorite solo for Bonnie (the extraordinary Laura Osnes). There is resignation and sorrow here, of course, as she contemplates her certain impending death, but that feeling of hope that she conveys is absolutely heartbreaking.

1. "How 'Bout a Dance?" - Not only my favorite Bonnie solo, but also my favorite Wildhorn tune. Ms. Osnes nails it, of course, but it a relatively quiet, sensual song.  It is not like the power ballads Wildhorn usually creates, and I love that about it.  I also adore the way it is arranged and orchestrated (by John McDaniel)

There is something so American about this score. Stylistically, there's country, honky tonk, gospel and jazz, and each fits the moment and the song perfectly. Its sheer ballsy American-ness fits the subject matter so perfectly, too. Where else can two nobodies dream of being a movie star and a gangster, and end up even more famous for being criminals?


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