Review: ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ puts bank robbing to music in UCO musical premiere

When the University of Central Oklahoma Musical Theater Department announced the program would perform “Bonnie & Clyde,” the choice seemed odd. 

A two-person lead musical for a university production? Even with casting doubles, students’ opportunities for gaining roles felt limited. But at the final dress rehearsal for the show, UCO Director of Musical Theater Greg White proved me wrong. 

While, as the title suggests, the show focused on real-life criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow— supporting characters stole the show with their raw emotions and timeless jokes. The musical highlighted the lives of Bonnie and Clyde as much as it did the lives of the characters impacted by the couple’s rendezvouses. 

Morgan Paulson’s performance as Blanche Barrow was nothing short of immersive. Her southern twang and religious humor made the role playful, but by Act II Paulson’s brazen demeanor displayed her range. Her partner in the show, Buck Barrow, played by Garett Christensen, gave an impactful performance with realistic uses of props and fake blood.

Just as the love between Bonnie and Clyde, played by Laila Jalil and Logan Corely, was palpable, so was the unrequited love police officer Ted Hinton had for Bonnie, displayed by student Logan Wright. 

Wright’s typecast as the “quirky leading male” felt upgraded: delivering a heartfelt, if not heartbreaking, performance.

Student Lamar Burns, who sang as the Preacher, made the serious, literal gut-wrenching scenes digestible. 

The audience roared, and Burns received a standing ovation for his gospel led vocals.

Guest director Justin Larman created a realistic escape: projecting historic photos and videos from the Great Depression on a screen behind students. But this escape did not feel like a vacation. 

While Bonnie & Clyde’s juxtaposed numbers intertwined humor with the realities of a national recession, it left viewers feeling almost relieved at the country’s current state. There’s nothing like 1930’s Oklahoma to make you appreciate the present. But with inflation and the post-COVID recession, perhaps “Bonnie & Clyde” is the perfect musical for the season. 

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