Bonnie and Clyde creators Frank Wildhorn, Don Black and Ivan Menchell on opening night
This world will remember them...
Last night a little hell was raised at the Arts Theatre in the heart of the West End as fans and special guests gathered under one roof to celebrate the official opening night of Bonnie and Clyde.
Described as "an excellent production firing on all cylinders" in our WhatsOnStage review, the musical features a book by Ivan Menchell, music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Don Black.
Prior to the press night performance, we caught up with the creative trio to get their thoughts on their show's long and winding road to the West End.
Bonnie and Clyde debuted in San Diego way back in 2009, ahead of a Broadway transfer in 2011. Fast forward over a decade and we're finally here at the show's first West End run. What does this mean to you?
Ivan Menchell: I'm feeling equal parts terrified and excited. But I'm really thrilled to be here. We've been here all through previews. We've been working on the show with [director] Nick [Winston]. We've done some re-writing. We've added a song. There are quite a few differences from the New York production.
Don Black: As you say, it's taken us over ten years to get here. It's thrilling for us. It's thrilling because we know it works here [in London]. And we're very excited. We really are. I know people say that, but we really are. We don't say that lightly. We work very hard and we hone these things. We had dinner last night and we were saying how proud we are of this production.
Frank Wildhorn: I just can't believe that you're interviewing us and this is the first interview in the West End in my career with us together. The whole thing is kinda larger than life and wonderful and we're all very proud.
Frank, can you take us back to how this whole musical originated?
FW: Bonnie and Clyde started when I was running a division of Atlantic Records. I think it was around 2008 and we were doing a project called "The Romantics" and I sent Don a list of titles – people who we could write about. It was a song cycle project. And he picked Bonnie and Clyde.
DB: Yes, there was a whole list of literary classics.
FW: And we wrote three songs and made a demo and the reaction to it was fantastic! Everybody asked: "Why are you stopping at three songs? There's a show here!" And that was the original birth of Bonnie and Clyde.
DB: When you choose a subject, it's always best to go for something that's unlike anything you've written before. I had never written about gangsters and Texas and that was the appeal for me. After I'd done Sunset Boulevard, I was asked if I would be interested in Greta Garbo, but it's the same story so I declined. But the idea of Bonnie and Clyde as a musical was so original.
And what appealed to you about the project, Ivan?
IM: Well, at first, Jeff Calhoun, the Broadway director, brought the show to me and I didn't want to write it. I really didn't think I was able to write this thing. But then I discovered a book that was written by Bonnie's mother and Clyde's sister and it contained a lot of the letters that they wrote back and forth. I got to see the intimacy of the story – the love between them. When I saw that, that's when I felt that I had a way in. I could find a way to tell a story of the circumstances that led to who they were; not just to celebrate what we all already knew about Bonnie and Clyde.
As you're the undeniable experts, how would you describe Frances Mayli McCann and Jordan Luke Gage's portrayals of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow?
DB: They're both wonderful because they make you laugh and they make you cry.
IM: They have insane chemistry. I believe they've worked together before. They're also really close friends and that has given them such a beautiful chemistry onstage. They really do have such deep affection for each other and I think they trust each other implicitly which enables them to take great risks in the roles.
FW: They're so great! They're young and they have that vitality and that energy and I think they kick ass! Jordan can hit those fantastic notes and Frances is a star! She owns this part and she owns it in a wonderful way.
What can UK fans expect from this new staging of your musical?
IM: I think London audiences can expect to see a very unusual romance. When I first started working on this show, I said that it was more about sex than violence and I think that you're really going to see that.
DB: They can expect an exciting night out that will also move them. It's a touching show and they'll certainly be smiling.
FW: I agree. Don's the man with the words. I'm just the tune!
IM: I have to say that this production is pretty extraordinary. It's fulfilled a lot of my wildest dreams and a few that I didn't even know that I had. It's really incredible what they've accomplished here in the way that they're telling the story. I think fans of the show are gonna be really happy with it.
Tickets for performances through to 10 July 2022 are available below.