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Catherine

Tyldesley

Catherine Tyldesley makes her musical theatre debut in the nationwide tour of Bonnie & Clyde which visits Bath’s Theatre Royal at the start of May. 

 

TV favourite Catherine, who is well known to television audiences for her roles in Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Trollied, 15 Days, Strictly Come Dancing, The Good Ship Murder and Scarborough, tells us why she agreed to star in the musical and what audiences can expect.

Photographs by Richard Davenport, Kris Askey  and Darren Bell

Playing Blanche Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde The Musical is a dream come true for Catherine Tyldesley. This is the Coronation Street and Strictly Come Dancing star's professional musical theatre debut. "And I couldn't be more excited," Catherine says about appearing in the show named Best New Musical at the 2023 WhatsOnStage Awards.

 

She's 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.

Bonnie & Clyde - Backstage with Catherine Tyldesley, Jaz Ellington & Alex James-Hatton - c

"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'."

Bonnie & Clyde - Catherine Tyldesley as Blanche - Photo by Richard Davenport.JPG

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 prior to 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."

"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, 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 practise 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."

 

Music and musical theatre are in Catherine's blood. Both her grandfather and her aunt were jazz singers and her mum was a huge Doris Day fan. "So it was Calamity Jane non-stop," she smiles. "I remember going to see Grease five or six times and thinking 'This is what I want to do when I grow up'. After I left drama school I was convinced that I would work predominantly in musical theatre, but it just so happened that I fell into film and television."

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 but I felt I left at the right time because I wanted to explore other things and to develop as an actor and as a person."

"I remember going to see Grease five or six times and thinking 'This is what I want to do when I grow up"

Bonnie & Clyde - Sam Ferriday as Buck and Catherine Tyldesley as Blanche - Credit Richard

She's had so many enjoyable jobs since leaving Weatherfield. “I’ve been incredibly lucky since leaving Corrie and have been blessed with such varied and wonderful roles, working with amazing talent and traveling to some beautiful places. I always struggle to pinpoint favourite jobs because each role is a blessing and a journey.”

 

A recent highlight is Channel 5's hit murder mystery The Good Ship Murder, about which Catherine says: "It has been an incredible job with the most stunning locations, so much fun, with a wonderful cast. People have fallen in love with it and I’m so thrilled. Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery?"

She also loved being partnered with Johannes Radebe on Strictly Come Dancing in 2019. She'd done basic jazz dance at drama school. "But most of the time I avoided those classes because I just didn't have any confidence. Strictly gave me that confidence and that came from Johannes, who is a special soul. I was like 'I'm too tall to dance and I look a bit gangly' and he told me 'You've just got to go out there and own it'."

 

She went on to do the Strictly live tour. "That was probably my favourite bit actually, because the pressure was off and we got so good because we were doing the same dances every night. We were so polished by the end of it and I was like 'I wish we were this good on the telly show!'"

 

Tyldesley will be doing what she calls "a bit of mild dancing" in Bonnie & Clyde and she's looking forward to touring the country again, this time in a fully-fledged music. "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 The Musical appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 30th April to Saturday 4th May. To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or visit theatreroyal.org.uk 

Catherine Tyldesley - Bonnie and Clyde The Musical - Photo credit Darren Bell.jpg
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