Playing Blanche Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde The Musical which comes to Manchester’s Palace Theatre next week is a dream come true for Catherine Tyldesley.

This is the Coronation Street and Strictly Come Dancing star’s professional musical theatre debut and she admits “I couldn’t be more excited” about her role in the show named Best New Musical at the 2023 WhatsOnStage Awards.

The Bolton News: Catherine Tyldesley as Blanche in Bonnie and Clyde (Picture: Richard Davenport)

Catherine, who played Eva Price on Coronation Street for seven years leaving the show in 2018 revealed she 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. Son Alfie is nine and daughter Ella, two.

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 ‘you have to do this show’.”

Catherine, 40, listened to the rest of the music.

“I fell in love with it and I knew that this was the one musical I had to do,” she said. “I’ve been extremely lucky with film and television but I’ve waited a long time for this.”

The show played to packed houses in London’s West End. It’s a retelling of the story of outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who became folk heroes during the Great Depression, with Catherine playing Clyde’s sister-in-law Blanche.

The Bolton News: Bonnie & Clyde Production Photos
Leicester Curve
22nd Feb 2024 

©Richard Davenport

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 said, “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 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.”

Walkden-born Catherine, hasn’t done a professional musical before, although during her training at the Birmingham School of Acting she appeared in The Sound of Music, Grease and Oliver! And she’s always been singing.

She said: “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.”

The Bolton News: Catherine Tyldesley as Blanche in Bonnie and Clyde (Picture: Richard Davenport)

Having released her debut album Rise in 2016, she adds: “I’ve always loved singing and it’s great that 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 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

“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.”

Catherine 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 Eva Price.

“It was amazing,” she beams about landing the plum role. “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 travelling to some beautiful places.”

The Bolton News: Bonnie & Clyde Production Photos
Leicester Curve
22nd Feb 2024 

©Richard Davenport

Catherine loved being partnered with Johannes Radebe on Strictly Come Dancing in 2019. She’d done basic jazz dance at drama school but they didn’t really help her.

“Most of the time I avoided those classes because I just didn’t have any confidence,” she said. “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,” she said. “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!’”

Bonnie & Clyde, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Tuesday, May 7 to Saturday, May 11. Details from . The show is also at Blackpool Opera House from June 25 to 29