Musical Theatre’s Criminal and Thrilling ‘Bonnie and Clyde’

Musical Theatre Society’s production of “Bonnie and Clyde” whisks us into a thrilling criminal world of 1930s Dallas, Texas. The reckless ambition that joins Clyde Barrow (Michael Ahomka-Lindsay) and Bonnie Parker (Eilish Convery) draws us into the show from their first meeting. Supported by a strong and select ensemble, the musical explores the pressures of being an ambitious misfit in a claustrophobic American town.

The two leads tackle the immense task of a Texas accent, demanding vocals, and a (thankfully) believable relationship with skill. Convery’s ditsy but determined Bonnie turns from wannabe star to an active participant in the robberies, all the while maintaining a childish innocence. However, her consistently selfish behaviour makes Bonnie difficult to sympathise with. Rarely vulnerable, Convery portrays a Bonnie who is so focused on her own fame that she signs autographs during a robbery.

Unfortunately, this made Bonnie’s character fall flat next to the development we saw in Clyde. Starting off with small crimes, Clyde Barrow also dreamt of fame. But there is a clear turning point in Clyde’s narrative when his ambition turns into something darker. Once Clyde makes his first kill during a robbery, the fate of Bonnie and Clyde is sealed.

Contrasting the outlaws is Blanche Barrow’s Christian purity, performed by Lydia McKinley. Her accent and sly facial expressions never faltered as she comically tried to coerce the other characters into seeing that her way was the correct one. Blanche had arguably the most tragic story of all as her loyalty to her husband Buck Barrow (Zac Harvey-Wright), the brother of Clyde, eventually dragged her into crime too. McKinley gracefully avoided the danger of Blanche becoming a stereotyped, nagging wife and instead made Blanche one of the most relatable characters in the musical. When Buck meets his end in a shoot-out, McKinley’s impressive portrayal of violent grief was almost alien compared to the other character’s blasé approach to death.

Ahomka-Lindsay’s shining moment was in his rendition of “Raise a Little Hell”. Contained within a tiny rectangle of light signifying a prison, Ahomka-Lindsay fought against the limitations of his imaginary cell with a tension and passion that was electrifying. This was an opportunity for Ahomka-Lindsay to show that he could match the soul in his voice with raw emotion, and he seized it with both hands.

Image: LUU Musical Theatre Society

However, the musical struggled to adapt to the unique space the newlypened Pyramid offered. Somewhere between end-on and thrust, the audience curved slightly around three sides of the seating. Fortunately, I faced end-on, as most of the musical was performed to one side of the audience. With only one entrance to backstage, the actors often lingered behind the audience while waiting for their scene, which damaged the theatrical illusion.

Despite these issues, Musical Theatre Society told the story of “Bonnie and Clyde” with a feisty energy and commitment that the eponymous characters would be proud to put their names to.

Jess Williams

(Image courtesy of LUU Musical Theatre Society)