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Review | Bonnie & Clyde | Manchester Palace Theatre | 07/05/2024

Shot dead by Police 90 years ago to the month, this musical tells the real life story of criminal couple Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. After having a criminally short run on Broadway in 2011, the show found its audience in the UK with successful West End runs in both 2022 and 2023. Winning Best New Musical at the 2023 WhatsOnStage Awards, Bonnie & Clyde are now where they are most comfortable, on the road!

Whilst it cannot be ignored that the real life outlaws committed some appalling crimes, they had an almost celebrity-like status in the 1930’s. It was even reported that over 20,000 attended Parker’s funeral! Ivan Menchell’s book understands this completely, and has us routing for the pair  from the get go, even if this comes at the expense of their crimes being trivialised at points.

The staging is a perfect replication of the west end set, attempting to give audiences the same experience as enjoyed by legions of loyal fans in London. It did however at times feel a little lost on the vast stage of the Palace Theatre. What worked wonderfully however was the use of projections with video design by Nina Dunn. Not only did this help transport you to the 1920’s, but also allowed the musical to feature footage of the real life Bonnie & Clyde.

Alex James-Hatton and Katie Tonkinson are irresistible as our leading couple, with their chemistry being undeniable. Clyde is humanised by Bonnie through both actors interpretations, bringing out a unique and endearing vulnerability in Clyde. Tonkinson is world class and steals the show with her powerhouse vocals and self assured interpretation of Bonnie, with the stunning ‘You Love Who You Love’ being one of the most beautiful and memorable parts of the show.

The strength of this show is undoubtedly the score, with music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Tony Award winning lyricist Don Black. Musically, there is a real mix of genres with everything from gospel to country to rock. The absolute stand out song is the show-stopping ‘Raise A Little Hell’ in which Clyde expresses his frustration at his incarnation. Through Hatton’s performance we get to really understand Clydes character, his motivations and outlook. It is impossible not to fall in love with the incredible score, making it easy to understand Bonnie & Clydes cult following.

Bonnie & Clyde is on at Manchester Palace Theatre until Saturday 11 May 2024.

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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