'Bonnie and Clyde the Musical' will open July 20 at Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts.

There may be no more romanticized criminal couple in American history than Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. These young Texans had a brief crime spree in the early 1930s that brought them national attention. The image they created during the Depression was one of a chic, reckless, fast-driving, fast-acting, fast-living duo so full of life that they seemed like characters out of an adventure magazine.

It is only fitting that a Broadway musical should be written about the lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. After all, Clyde loved music – played the ukulele, guitar and the saxophone – and Bonnie longed to be a famous entertainer – singing in pageants and talent shows. They were passionate about fame; they were passionate about each other, and they teamed together to run a race that could never be won.

Fame did come to both of them, but not in the way they had envisioned. Bonnie would eventually appear on the screen that she dreamed of, but only as part of newsreel reports detailing the exploits of their criminal misadventures. Their fame spread through local newspapers and true crime magazines. While they liked the attention at first, they soon found it kept them from being able to move freely from place-to-place and back to Texas to visit their devoted families. Ironically, Bonnie and Clyde’s devotion to family would be their undoing.

Along for the ride were Clyde’s older brother, Buck, and Buck’s wife, Blanche. A couple others joined the gang, with one eventually becoming their Judas and ending the love affair altogether. Like Clyde, Buck had been a petty criminal most of his life. He was in and out of jail, while his faithful and religious wife waited for his return. She was unwillingly dragged into the Bonnie and Clyde whirlwind only when Clyde needed help from his brother toward the end of the saga. During a rain of gunfire into their hideout, Buck and Blanche were badly wounded. Buck died and Blanche lost the sight in one eye. As fate would have it, Blanche was the only one from this misadventure that ever served jail time.

Bonnie and Clyde were not considered “efficient” thieves. In fact, John Dillinger complained that they were “punks who gave bank robbers a bad name.” When they couldn’t get to banks, they robbed grocery stores for far less money. Still, you cannot deny their devotion to each other – which is why "Bonnie and Clyde" is and always will be more a love story than a crime spree.

They were young and reckless and in love and never surrendered their dreams of being famous. Movie magazines (belonging to Bonnie) were usually found left behind in stolen cars and hideouts. To his dismay, Clyde had to leave his guitar when caught in a shootout. He later asked his mother to retrieve it from the law. As expected, the law declined that request. Clyde continued to love music to the very end. Found in the Bonnie and Clyde “death car” was his saxophone.

The end came quickly and unexpectedly. Barrow gang member Henry Methvin was back in Louisiana visiting his family. He had asked Clyde to pick him up from his father’s house, but Henry had already conspired to betray Bonnie and Clyde in return for his own pardon. So it was on this trip to pick up Henry from his father’s house that Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed.

One of Bonnie’s last poems read: “Someday they’ll go down together; And they’ll bury them side by side, To a few it’ll be grief— To the law a relief— But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”

Bonnie and Clyde did, in fact, “go down” together. Over 130 bullets were shot into the car and their bodies looked posed as Bonnie’s head was at rest on Clyde’s shoulder in their car. Heartbreakingly, they were buried separately at the request of their parents. Bonnie’s epitaph reads “As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, so this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you.” Clyde’s reads, simply and accurately enough, “Gone, but not forgotten.”

They are not forgotten. With their lives set to music, they are immortalized yet again. Picketwire’s summer musical: “Bonnie and Clyde” opens Thursday, July 20, and runs the 21st, 22nd, and July 27, 28, 29. Tickets are $15 and on sale now. Reserve your seats by calling 384-8320 or through the website: picketwireplayers.org.