So let’s get some important things out of the way about Frank Wildhorn’s new musical: Yes, Jeremy Jordan is delicious and big singing, and you will want to dive headlong into the fathomless depths of his dimples. Yes, Laura Osnes has outrageously great abs and sings like a singing machine of perfection. Yes, Melissa Van Der Schyff deserves, and will probably get, a Tony nod for her portrayal of Clyde’s sister-in-law Blanche. Yes, there is one truly beautiful, flawlessly craptacular moment in the second act where Bonnie & Clyde becomes Bonnie & Zack Morris, in which Clyde stops the action around him, steps out of time, and discusses why he happens to occasionally kill people.
But the show, which opens tonight on Broadway, has some problems. In that light, I give you:
5 People Who Could Die in the First Act of Bonnie & Clyde, But Unfortunately Don’t
1. and 2. The ICs
You know what IC stands for right? Make it your new favorite acronym: Insufferable Children. Bonnie & Clyde has two of them – an insufferable Bonnie child, and an insufferable Clyde child. In another context, they might not be so insufferable, but in this one, they just wander around and heavy-handedly underline the point that Bonnie and Clyde began their lives as innocent, wide-eyed babes who never meant to hurt anyone, honest. Their smiles will grate, and their sun-will-fucking-definitely-come-out-tomorrow singing voices will make you want to punch holes in concrete walls. Paging Gavroche, stat.
3. The Poor Bastard Being Played by Louis Hobson
JESUS CHRIST, LOUIS HOBSON. First The People in the Picture, now this? Louis Hobson, who is so talented and cute and the one and only Dr. Fine of my heart 4 eva and eva. In Bonnie & Clyde, he is given the thankless task of playing Bonnie’s nice, hard-working, non-homicidal rival suitor. But in a show called Bonnie & Clyde, you don’t even want to think about being that guy. In a show called Bonnie & Clyde, you are that guy in your nightmares, and in those nightmares, you are wearing a gun holster and singing a gentle, deeply unmelodic, country-tinged ballad in 3/4 time while your woman fucks Jack Kelly… I mean Clyde… under a tree ten feet away. Wake up, Louis Hobson! Wake up!
4. Frank Wildhorn
Before I really get into this, I have to say. I have been known, on occasion, to bust out the Jekyll & Hyde album, and when I get my own cabaret show, “The World Has Gone Insane” is going to be my first-half closer. So I appreciate some well-placed Wildhorn now and again. But the songs in Bonnie & Clyde are more or less a catastrophe of monumental proportions for all the same reasons that Wildhorn songs always are: They miss the emotional mark, and they’re so flat and literal. There’s a song about driving cars. There’s a song about not wanting to go to jail. There’s a song about how getting gunned down in a 1934 Ford Sedan isn’t the worst way to go. That last one, incidentally, will make you want to raise your hand, midshow, like a precocious fourth grader, and say to whomever will listen, “Actually. Dying is so bad, Bonnie Parker. I appreciate that this show doesn’t really give your character any serious intellectual substance, but if you die, you literally lose at life. So yes, dying is that bad.”
Right at the beginning of the show, when Precocious Insufferable Baby Clyde was shooting his Playschool Child’s First Gun, I thought to myself, “OK, kid. Aim right for the audience—Row M, Orchestra Left—and hit me right in the chest and end this right now.” Stop trying to convince me that Bonnie and Clyde are just two nice kids. Stop being the kind of show that goes so far as to put a note in the Playbill to explain as much, like we’re all a little slow in the head. Stop trying to aggressively avoid the whole cynical-and-corrupted-young-America idea that’s so prominent in the MOVIE, because—newsflash—THE MOVIE IS GOOD. What’s wrong with being good? Being good is good! Hit me with your best shot, baby Clyde. Because literally losing at life might not be so bad as watching Bonnie & Clyde.