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A critically acclaimed musical telling the story of notorious gangster duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow is heading to the Midlands next month. Former Coronation Street star Catherine Tyldesley, who plays Clyde’s sister-in-law, Blanche, chats to What’s On about the show...

Catherine Tyldesley may be best known to most readers as Eva Price in Coronation Street, but the actress is also an accomplished singer and will be taking to the stage this spring in the UK tour of critically acclaimed musical Bonnie & Clyde.

Catherine plays Blanche Barrow, whose husband Buck is brother to Clyde. Together with Clyde’s girlfriend, Bonnie, the foursome cause merry hell as they blast their way across Depression-era America.

Based on a true story, the show - with music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black and book by Ivan Menchell - premiered in the US in 2009 and was a huge hit on Broadway and in the West End. This spring sees its first UK tour, with EastEnders actor Danny Hatchard as Clyde, Katie Tonkinson as Bonnie and Sam Ferriday as Buck.

For Catherine, the chance to appear in the show proved to be irresistible.

“I’ve been approached about doing tours before for musical theatre, and for me to be away from home and the children for that amount of time, I’d have to really love it,” she says. “The right thing just hadn’t come along - and then Bonnie And Clyde came in.

“I wasn’t familiar with the musical, and my husband Tom and I listened to my character’s first song, and after the first verse Tom looked at me and said ‘You have to do this show.’ I looked at the script, I listened to the songs and I totally fell in love with it. I always thought ‘When the right thing comes along, I’ll know’ - and I did.”

Catherine likes the complexity of Blanche, who was the only survivor of the group of four who became known as the Barrow Gang.

“For me to explore the love story of Bonnie and Clyde and of Blanche and Buck in a world which was so dark, with so many horrendous adrenaline-spiking happenings throughout the show, is utterly gorgeous. I love Blanche. Hers is a great love story; she is willing to do anything for her man.

“She has a pure heart and actually wants a simple life. She would be more than happy to grow old with Buck - sat out on the porch, watching the grandchildren - and she tries really hard to get Buck to see that. She tries with Bonnie and Clyde as well.

“She is the show’s moral compass, and I love the strength that gives to her. She wears the trousers in the relationship that she has with Buck, which I’m also a big fan of. Blanche is also very funny; she is the comic relief in the show.”

While Bonnie, Clyde and Buck were all killed by police, Blanche went on to live into her 70s and wrote about her time with the Barrow Gang - a fact which gives Catherine plenty of source material to help with her portrayal.

“I’ve been reading her diaries. Obviously, there’s creative leeway with the show, and there are differences between the real person and the character, but I would say that, on the whole, they’ve done an incredible job in being historically accurate. There are so many of her lines in the diaries that are similar to what she says in the show, so they have really honoured them as real people.

“Throughout the diaries, you see the love that she’s got for Buck - it almost borders on an obsession. And the relationship between Bonnie and Clyde is also like an obsession - they can’t be without each other.

That’s a really strong theme throughout the show, which is wonderful for an actress to delve into.

“If you want to go on a real emotional adrenaline high, this is the show for you. I think you would come out having been on a real journey with the highs and lows of the characters. And you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll surprise yourself in terms of judgement of the characters as well.”

The tour includes visits to Birmingham and Wolverhampton, two cities Catherine has fond memories of from her time as a student at Birmingham School of Acting, where she graduated in 2005.

“I have so much love for Birmingham School of Acting - it’s magical. The tuition was absolutely incredible, and it was really life-changing. I had a wonderful time in the city; the people are so friendly and welcoming. It was an awesome three years of my life.

“When I was at university, I worked at Superdrug in New Street in Birmingham, and I remember them saying Wolverhampton were a bit short at Christmas so did I want to go there. So I did two or three months at Wolverhampton Superdrug.

“I saw shows at Birmingham Hippodrome as a student, but I’ve not been to the Grand Theatre, so I’m so excited to be going to those theatres. This tour is like a bucket list for me!”

Catherine has made a career out of stage, screen and singing performances, releasing studio album Rise in 2016. Now she is looking forward to a role where she can show her musical talent.

“I love singing and I’ve really missed it, so I’m chomping at the bit for this musical. Singing has always been a big part of my life, and I’ve always kept it bubbling away in the background. I’m very grateful for being so busy in television and film, but it’s nice to have some singing to look forward to now.”

Catherine also tried her hand at tripping the light fantastic in 2019, in the 17th series of Strictly Come Dancing and on its subsequent UK tour. Partnered with professional dancer Johannes Radebe, she says the competition really boosted her confidence.

“For me, the dance side of things I saw as my weak spot. I knew I could sing, I knew I could act, but I’d always avoided dance, so doing it for Strictly was very new to me. I’ve taken so much away from it - my confidence levels for dance are so much higher now. But if I could go back, I would try to worry less and enjoy the TV show more because when I got on tour it felt so much more chilled. You were doing the same dance every night, and I just rolled with it and in turn became a much better dancer.

“I’m still obsessed with the show, and I took Jojo (Johannes Radebe) away with me. He’s one of my best friends, and I think he was the reason for me to do that show, to have him in my life. Dancing was something I felt so nervous about before, and my [newfound] confidence is thanks to Jojo, really.”

Bonnie & Clyde shows at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Tuesday 5 to Saturday 9 March and at Birmingham Hippodrome from Tuesday 3 to Saturday 7 September

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