Last week NUI Galway’s top performance societies – DramSoc and GUMS – teamed up (forming the aptly named DRUMS) to put on a production of ‘Bonnie and Clyde-the Musical’. Overall, I’ve given the show a well-earned four point two stars out of five for their portrayal of the famous crime duo.
The show opened in what I admit was a slightly confusing manner. The girl who appeared to be playing Bonnie sang a song and was then replaced by a different actress. The same thing happened with Clyde. It took me a few seconds to realise that these were intended to be younger versions of the characters. Given that this was a University production and cast with students, it’s understandable that the age difference wasn’t there. But the moment was still raised a few ‘huh?’s and could have potentially been avoided with similar costume choice between the different ages.
Regardless, the production continued on at a high calibre. The titular characters were excellently cast. Both seemed to effortlessly capture magnetic chemistry that enticed the audience, with their love scenes striking a narrow balance between dangerous and passionate. The turbulent relationship was depicted in a way that still encouraged us to root for them. Surprisingly, the performance was Alice Hegarty’s debut in acting. She undoubtedly succeeded as the ravishing redhead Bonnie. She allowed the character to be seductive without being overbearing, retaining the sweet girl beneath. She also – as Bonnie liked to mention – did indeed look good in hats, pulling off the American 20’s dream of an ideal woman.
Patrick Conneely’s portrayal of Clyde was equally endearing. His emotional outbursts were timed to perfection, shaking the audience as much as the characters onstage. Similarly to Bonnie’s sweetness, Clyde’s charm escaped once the other layers were peeled back, winning us over just after he’d maddened us with a breakdown. Apart from an occasional slip in accent, the two leads were close to flawless.
Following in their footsteps were the secondary characters of Buck and Blanche who were played by Connor Curran and Aisling Bonner. As Clyde’s older brother, Buck feels obligated to keep in with their gang, despite his wife, Blanche’s, constant protests. Curran gave an interesting portrayal of Buck by taking a comedic approach. Whether it was improvisation by the actor or the direction, it contributed greatly to the show, lightening the mood. A particular moment that stood out was Buck’s difficulty in reading, which deviated from the script but had the audience in stitches. Although Curran flubbed one of his lines, it actually went hand in hand with this quirkier interpretation of Buck, and rather than breaking the spell, just continued to make the audience laugh. Blanche aided similarly to the humorous aspects of the show, with Bonner giving clipped responses with excellent timing. The two were a heart-warming duo, sharing very tender moments. The emotional climax of the show centred around the couple, and was done with great feeling.
The rest of the cast must also be praised, Sarah Dervin in particular giving a quality performance as Bonnie’s heartbroken, old-fashioned mother. The ensemble were of great variety, with both sassy and humorous characters who stood out in their own right.
What truly gave the show its essence, however, was the music. The arrangements were difficult and the cast showcased them with ease. Each of the characters had a unique and strong voice. Clyde’s was raspy with a range of runs, Bonnie’s was velvety rich, and Blanche’s was melodically gospel-choir worthy. The musical numbers really were beyond anything I’ve ever seen in an amateur production.
Unfortunately, not everything was as superior as the music. The choreography, although well-intentioned, wasn’t carried out to its full potential. At times steps were executed messily,
or almost as an afterthought. It was a slight disappointment, as the rest of the show really emphasised the cast’s talents, and I just wished the same for the dancing elements. One scene however definitely was an exception, choreographed and executed well. While the police call into Blanche’s hair salon, hunting for her husband, the ladies getting their hair done burst into song. It was one of the best scenes of the show, with the three ensemble members shining onstage during their number.
The commitment of the entire cast and crew to the show was unquestionable. After the intermission – where the audience was asked to leave – the cast formed a freeze onstage. When we returned, they remained still until the show began again, which took serious determination as the theatre was wintery cold. They were almost too determined at times, for example, when the tiniest of the cast members was designated the job of moving a bedside cabinet across the stage. Why the smallest person would the chosen one for the task, I could not understand, and it was definitely a struggle that we all noticed, distracting from the production itself.
Overall the show was a very good interpretation, and was well directed by Mia Piccoli. The spirit of the well-loved film was definitely captured and relayed with skill. The ending remained slightly confusing, with different members of the crowd around me being unsure about whether Bonnie and Clyde actually remained alive or not. Whether it was a creative decision to be left ambiguous, or just unclear, it fell short of being entirely satisfying.
All in all, however, the production was fantastic. Every member of the cast and crew should be highly commended. A well-earned four point two stars out of five, even in the ice cold theatre of NUIG.