At the opening of Bonnie & Clyde, Frank Wildhorn, knowing how his shows are received critically, was smiling, joking and laughing. The persistent Wildhorn must have thick skin. He keeps coming back when others might have taken the money and be living the high life. Many are of the opinion that he got a raw deal, that Bonnie & Clydeis far better than 99 percent of the critics thought.

Preview audiences seemed to be filling the house, but you never know the games played during previews. However, young people appeared to be in the majority, which many felt boded well, especially since they were enjoying it. A reporter stood by the stage door barricades several nights and gauged audience comments. They were quite positive. No one's going to tell an actor they don't like a show, but the hundred or more that waited seemed to actually enjoy Bonnie & Clyde. If you linked to The Box, comments were were generally "this is better than before," which, for a Wildhorn musical, is pretty close to a rave. It certainly wasn't everyone's cup of tea. A colleague was overheard stating, "It won't be around very long."

According to lyricist Don Black, "This time it seemed to all be coming together, to be working." But the Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe and Tony winner and Songwriters Hall of Fame member who also wrote all those hit James Bond theme songs added, "You never know. You never can tell."

Bonnie & Clyde is Black's first foray on Broadway in seven years. The last time he had two shows opening about the same time – and closing about the same time: Dracula and Bombay Dreams.

Dracula, which received a critical drubbing, is having a second life in Asia and Europe. "During previews," points out Black, "Dracula was a sensation. You couldn't get a ticket. We thought we'd be a smash. Then, we opened! The critics hated it, or at least the main critic [of the New York Times] did. But we've moved on, giving it a new incarnation with some new songs."

Addressing the Bollywood musical, Bombay Dreams, Black says, "It was a different kind of entertainment, the story of an actor making it as a Bollywood star. We had a hit on the West End and a decent run on Broadway. Now, a screenplay's in the works."

He says it's important to score a winner on Broadway. "Broadway's not the end of the world, but it's the head office. You want to succeed here for many reasons. It helps to have a hit for the future of a show."

Black was aware of Wildhorn's track record since Jekyll &Hyde and how he's become a sitting duck for critics, but he was anxious to work with the composer again. "Frank's an absolute delight. It's amazing how he keeps reinventing himself. He's like a kid in a toy store. His enthusiasm rubs off on you.

"We couldn't have asked for a better director [Jeff Calhoun] or cast," he continues. "Laura [Osnes] and Jeremy [Jordan] are great. I felt we did something right. It's not only Frank's best score in years, but also something he hasn't done before."

It's hard to see "your baby" go down, especially since it's been in the works for 10 years. Because of the folklore surrounding Bonnie and Clyde, Black, who calls them "popular legends of the scrappy times of the 30s," feels the show will have legs on the road. "But Frank and I have been here before, so we dream with the breaks on. You just never know."

Bonnie & Clyde closed December 30, 2011.


Key Subjects: 
Don Black, Frank Wildhorn, Bonnie & Clyde, Jekyll & Hyde, Dracula, Laura Osnes, Jeremy Jordan.
Ellis Nassour
December 2012