Bonnie & Clyde Catherine Tyldesley
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Sunderland Empire: Bonnie & Clyde with Catherine Tyldesley

Coronation Street and Strictly Come Dancing star, Catherine Tyldesley, is making her musical theatre debut in Bonnie & Clyde visiting Sunderland Empire from 19 March

Fan-favourite and winner of Best New Musical, Bonnie & Clyde The Musical has announced initial casting for the production’s first-ever UK and Ireland tour in 2024.

Leading lady and Coronation Street and Strictly Come Dancing star, Catherine Tyldesley will make her musical theatre debut as Blanche Barrow.

Catherine Tyldesley considers playing Blanche Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde The Musical a dream come true. 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. “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’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.

Bonnie & Clyde with Catherine Tyldesley: Behind Her Role

Bonnie & Clyde Catherine Tyldesley
Photo credit: Darren Bell

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’.”

“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 stage work includes Jim Cartwright’s ‘Is There Anybody There?’ and ‘The Ceremony’, featuring Sue Johnston. It was live during the pandemic to raise money for out-of-work actors.

Musical Debut

Bonnie & Clyde Catherine Tyldesley

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.”

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 I like 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.”

Bonnie & Clyde with Catherine Tyldesley: Music and Theatre

Bonnie & Clyde Catherine Tyldesley

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 sure 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’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. Besides, who doesn’t love a good murder mystery?”

Catherine Tyldesley and Strictly Come Dancing

In 2019, she also cherished partnering with Johannes Radebe on Strictly Come Dancing. 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 good 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 to touring the country again, 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.”

Grab your tickets to Bonnie & Clyde, playing at Sunderland Empire from 19 March, here.