Bonnie & Clyde: Album Reviews

Recorded on January 2, 2012, just three days after its closing night, the Original Broadway Cast album of Bonnie and Clyde was released in stores last week by Broadway Records. The score had received warmer reviews than the production. Below is a sampling of reviews of the score and the album. For the record, the creative team includes Frank Wildhorn (music), Don Black (lyrics), Ivan Menchell (book), and John McDaniel (orchestrations and arrangements). The liner notes include essays from the creative team, as well as complete lyrics.

Andy Propst (Theater Mania): Frank Wildhorn’s blend of pop sounds, period tunes and Broadway bombast, along with Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes’ electrifying performances, are all grandly preserved. … Unfortunately, as the pair’s exploits become more violent and adrenaline-charged, Wildhorn’s score (which receives little help from Don Black’s lyrics) becomes increasingly eclectic. … Regardless, there’s no questioning the sheer vocal power and emotional intensity that Osnes and Jordan bring to the work. … Accompanying the disc, which also includes a bonus track of [“This Never Happened Before”] a gorgeous number cut from the show as it developed, is a stunning booklet filled with not only a plethora of color pictures from the Broadway production, but also some great black and white photos from the period. The synopsis and lyrics are also complemented by brief essays from Wildhorn, Black and McDaniel, and there’s even a reprint of one of Bonnie’s original poems.

Ben Brantley (New York Times): Mr. Wildhorn … is politely restrained for a production that you might have expected to bring out his most lurid side. His musical template is humbly of the people this time, which means a little bit gospel, a little bit ragtime, a little bit country-western. But the numbers – even the kind of evangelical call-and-response song that usually gets audiences whooping and clapping along – all seem to flat-line in the end. Tellingly the show’s best song is a slender, shimmering hymn to small and ordinary pleasures, nicely performed by Melissa van der Schyff.

Elysa Gardner (USA Today): Jeremy Jordan’s robust singing and graceful swagger just make the hollowness of Clyde’s narcissism – and of the generic vocal showcases that Black and Wildhorn provide him – more obvious. Wildhorn’s music is, as usual, more ingratiating than theatrically compelling. There are predictable nods to roots music of the era, with melodic and textural flourishes evoking everything from Duke Ellington to Bon Jovi. Some of the less bombastic tunes are mildly pleasing, but they do little to serve the arc of Bonnie and Clyde’s journey, or those of the characters surrounding them. Several gifted players tackle those roles, among them Melissa Van Der Schyff, whose limpid tone and sweetly trembling vibrato recall a young Dolly Parton.

Linda Winer (Newsday): The show has two of the elements that broad audiences seem to like in a musical: a recognizable story and music that sounds like music we’ve heard before. … This is Wildhorn’s most developed, most genuinely theatrical score. Unlike the prolific craftsman’s six critically unloved shows since 1995 … this one actually integrates its creamy middle-of-the-road songs with the storytelling in Ivan Menchell’s capable book. Too many numbers cancel one another out with big yowling climaxes … and, more than several times, I found myself asking “So what?” as the familiar saga unfolds with more forward-moving passion than subtle emotional content. But the story moves. The bluesy, country-kicking songs serve the characters. And the characters grow believably from their Depression-era hopelessness of the dust-poor Texas town.

Steven Suskin (Playbill): The phrase “Frank Wildhorn musical” has a certain connotation in some circles, but here the composer confounded at least some of his critics. The show … didn’t work; the music, though, wasn’t the problem. This was the best of the scores Wildhorn has given us, which might in itself not sound like much of a recommendation. But Wildhorn, here, actually seemed to be writing for the theater. Don Black’s lyrics, though, were not particularly helpful. … Fans of Wildhorn (of which there are many) and fans of Bonnie & Clyde (of which there are some) will be glad to add the posthumously recorded CD to their collection.

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