Research tells us there is a strong correlation between heat and violent crime. So, as summer heat drives the thermometer up, why not give a listen to Frank Wildhorn's (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel & Dracula) score for his 2012 Broadway musical Bonnie & Clyde? The New York production garnered mixed reviews, positive word of mouth, and suffered from slow ticket sales. It played for 33 previews and 36 regular performances to packed houses before shutting its doors. Despite the lackluster box office performance in New York City, the show about the infamous Depression-era duo has become an audience favorite and even enjoyed great success in Tokyo. Frank Wildhorn's pop rock sensibilities meld with the rural aural landscape of the 1920s and 1930s, crafting a score that is a pure pleasure to experience on the rollicking Bonnie & Clyde (Original Broadway Cast Album).
In the musical, a 23-year-old waitress in West Texas, named Bonnie Parker, dreams of stardom in Hollywood. Just after breaking out of jail, Clyde Barrow finds Bonnie walking home. Instantaneously, they are smitten with one another. She confides in him about her dreams, and he convinces her that together they'll make her dreams come true. From here, the narrative follows Bonnie and Clyde through their wild, tumultuous relationship and stunning criminal activities.
On the album, Wildhorn's ebullient score, with music Supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by John McDaniel, is lively and raucous. In true Wildhorn fashion, the score has a copious handful of gorgeous and sumptuous ballads as well. Likewise, Don Black's (Tell Me On a Sunday, Sunset Boulevard, Bombay Dreams, Dracula) lyrics are tinged with angst and resound with emotions. They work well to convey the hopes, fears, aggression, and violence in the piece.
Singing Clyde Barrow, Jeremy Jordan (Newsies, NBC's SMASH) imbues the character with fervent passion, grit, and zeal. He dreams of being a household name like his idol Al Capone, setting the stage for a dangerous and volatile youth. Channeling the real-life Clyde Barrow, Jordan's explosive anxiety and anger only deepens after he kills the inmate who sexually and physically abused him in jail. His clear and brawny baritone instrument is dynamic and charismatic. Jordan easily woos both Bonnie and listeners alike with his voice's seductive masculinity, bringing earnest power and enthusiasm to numbers like "The World Will Remember Me," "When I Drive," "Raise a Little Hell," "The World Will Remember Us" and "Too Late to Turn Back Now." His voice is more plaintive and sweetly dulcet on "You Can Do Better Than Him," "What Was Good Enough For You," "Bonnie," and "Dyin' Ain't So Bad (Reprise)."
Laura Osnes (Cinderella, 2007 Revival of Grease, 2011 Revival of Anything Goes) conveys Bonnie Parker's unassuming naiveté and big dreams of Hollywood stardom. She simply gets swept away by love and lost in Clyde's own delusions of grandeur. She sings the character with twangy Texan tones, keeping the character grounded in her gorgeous, earthy voice. Osnes has proven herself to be a grand ingénue on the stage, and that quality is found in her vocalizations on the album as well. While Jordan's Clyde is rough around the edges, Osnes consistently maintains a sumptuous grandeur that is at times too clean for the troubled, straying character. Regardless, she expertly sells and shines on numbers like "How 'Bout a Dance," "You Love Who You Love," "What Was Good Enough For You," "Dyin' Ain't So Bad," and "How 'Bout a Dance (Reprise)."
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The supporting cast and ensemble provide rich accompaniment for the show's leads on the recording as well. My favorite moments from this talented group is the childhood dreams of Young Bonnie and Young Clyde sung by Kelsey Fowler and Talon Ackerman on "Picture Show," the powerfully coarse vocals of Michael Lanning's Preacher on "Made in America," and Melissa van der Schyff's picturesque alto voice on both "You Love Who You Love" and "That's What You Call a Dream."
Jason Howland conducts the small orchestra with lively vigor as the music alternates between up-tempo country rags to slow, heartrending ballads. As a group, the orchestra proficiently plays Wildhorn's score with fascinating sincerity and dexterity.
As a fan of Wildhorn's works, I find plenty to love on the Bonnie & Clyde (Original Broadway Cast Recording) disc. After listening to the album several times, I don't think many will claim Bonnie & Clyde as their favorite musical. However, the infectious pop hooks are sure to sink into their memories and hearts, making many of the tunes on the disc dance through their brains for some time to come. Overall, it is an animated and enthralling modern Broadway score that will be a welcome addition to your collection.
Bonnie & Clyde (Original Broadway Cast Recording) was released digitally on April 19, 2012. Digital copies can be purchased at iTunes and Amazon. Physical were released on April 24, 2012 and can be available anywhere music is sold.