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Catherine Tyldesley brings Bonnie & Clyde The Musical to Cardiff

Playing Blanche Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde The Musical is a dream come true for Catherine Tyldesley. This is the Coronation Street star’s professional musical theatre debut and she couldn’t be more excited.


(Bonnie & ClydeTheMusical/Wales Millennium Centre)

Catherine has been approached about doing musicals before. “But I had to be really in love with something for me to leave the children for that amount of time,” the mother-of-two admits. Then she heard Blanche’s big number That’s What You Call A Dream and was hooked. “Me and my husband [Tom Pitfield] got one verse in and he looked at me and went ‘Oh my God, you have to do this show’.”


Catherine, 40, listened to the rest of the music. “And I was 100% in. I fell in love with it and I knew that this was the one musical I had to do. I’ve been extremely lucky with film and television but I’ve waited a long time for this.”


The show features music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black and a book by Ivan Menchell, and it played to packed houses in London’s West End across two rave-reviewed seasons. It’s an electrifying, energised retelling of the story of outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who became folk heroes during the Great Depression, with Tyldesley playing Clyde’s sister-in-law Blanche. Married to Clyde’s elder brother Buck, she reluctantly became part of the bank-robbing Barrow Gang and was the only member of the core group to survive, later serving a prison sentence for assault with intent to kill.


“She’s a powerhouse,” Catherine elaborates, “and she wears the trousers in the relationship between herself and Buck. They are deeply in love, and she would do anything for him, but she’s very devout in her faith and she wants him to be on the right path in life. Buck is like ‘I can’t argue with this woman, she is the boss, so I’ve got to do what she says’.”


Delving into Blanche’s diaries, the actress was interested to learn she also tried to get Clyde to see the light. “But there’s a turning point mid-show where she realises that he is past all help. In her diaries she writes ‘I tried to help Clyde, I tried to help Bonnie’ but they were just unreachable.”


Catherine is no stranger to theatre. Her previous stage work includes Jim Cartwright’s Is There Anybody There? and she wrote and starred in The Ceremony, which also featured Sue Johnston and was filmed for broadcast during the pandemic to raise money for out-of-work actors.


Tyldesley, who was born in the Greater Manchester town of Walkden, hasn’t done a professional musical before Bonnie & Clyde, although during her training at the Birmingham School of Acting she appeared in such shows as The Sound of Music, Grease and Oliver! And she’s always been singing between acting roles, saying: “That’s how I made my bread and butter before Corrie. I was singing five or six nights a week, doing a lot of musical theatre numbers because that was my passion, along with jazz and swing.”


Having released her debut album Rise in 2016, she adds: “I’ve always loved singing and it’s great that now I finally get to do it in a big stage musical.”


(Bonnie & ClydeTheMusical/Wales Millennium Centre)

The show, she notes, has a bit of everything. “You’ve got great music, adventure, the gangster element, but it also delves into the love story, to see the chemistry between Bonnie and Clyde, as well as between Blanche and Buck. It’s got that adrenaline-junkie feel but at the same time it’s really going to pull on your heartstrings. And it’s got great comedy in there too. Part of the reason that I was drawn to Blanche is because her one-liners are just brilliant.”


Can she relate to the character in any way? “I would say that I’m incredibly determined, as Blanche is. I was raised a Catholic and I don’t practice the faith anymore, but my mum is incredibly devout and anyone who meets her says ‘There’s something really special about your mum, something really powerful’. I’m using that for Blanche. She kind of has an inner strength that she takes from her faith, which makes her feisty.”


Tyldesley made her screen debut in 2006 in Holby City and was in Coronation Street (as a midwife), Doctors, Emmerdale and Shameless before returning to Corrie in 2011 as plucky Eva Price. “It was amazing,” she beams about landing the plum role for a seven-year stint. “I’d watched Corrie since I was a little girl and my family were obsessed with it. It really was a dream job.”


She also loved being partnered with Johannes Radebe on Strictly Come Dancing in 2019.


Tyldesley will be doing what she calls “a bit of mild dancing” in Bonnie & Clyde and she’s looking forward to touring the country, this time in a fully-fledged musical. “It’s super exciting and we’re going to all these iconic theatres in all these beautiful towns and cities.” She smiles. “It’s going to be quite the adventure.”


Bonnie & Clyde comes to Cardiff from 26 – 30 March 2024. Tickets are available now at wmc.org.uk


 

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