Interview: 'You Never Take The Audience For Granted': Frances Mayli McCann on The Enduring Appeal of BONNIE & CLYDE

"It's nice to be part of something that people really, really love."

By: May. 04, 2023
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Interview: 'You Never Take The Audience For Granted': Frances Mayli McCann on The Enduring Appeal of BONNIE & CLYDE

BroadwayWorld UK recently spoke with Frances Mayli McCann about her time playing Bonnie Parker in Bonnie & Clyde.

We discussed what it's been like to see the show develop over time, why she thinks audiences love the show so much, and even got some recommendations on learning more about the history of the infamous duo!

How did you first get involved in the world of theatre?

It was actually my family! They heard me sing one day on karaoke and they thought, "Oh, she can sing!" At that point, I was dancing and doing acting classes. So they came across an advert for The Stage School, put me in for an audition, I got in, and then that's when I started doing theatre!

What made you want to be a part of Bonnie & Clyde?

I didn't know much about the show before it came over. I had heard the soundtrack and "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" was part of my audition rep. But apart from that, I didn't know much about the actual show. Obviously, I knew about this infamous couple throughout history. So when they came to me and asked me to sing and read some scenes for the concert at Drury Lane I was like, "Okay . . . me?" I couldn't believe that they were coming to me to potentially play that role. I got to sing "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" and I thought, "Oh, wow, I could actually sing this as the character for real!" So it was a really exciting opportunity to get to do it at the Drury Lane Theatre with Jeremy Jordan, who originated the role. And then learning that it had another life at The Arts and then again at the Garrick - it was just really exciting to be able to be the first person in the UK to play it. I really love the show, and I love singing the music every night. It's been a real gift of a role to play.

Did you know much about the history behind Bonnie & Clyde before taking on the role?

Not as much as I do now! We've done a lot of research, a lot of reading, a lot of watching different things. I knew who they were, of course, because they're still referenced today in so many shows and songs. As soon as you look out for it, they just pop up everywhere! But yeah, didn't know much about them as in as much detail as I do know.

Interview: 'You Never Take The Audience For Granted': Frances Mayli McCann on The Enduring Appeal of BONNIE & CLYDE

Do you have any recommendations for people looking to learn more about Bonnie and Clyde?

Yes! Ivan, who wrote the book for the musical, gave Jordan and I a book called Fugitives, and it's written from the viewpoint of Clyde's sister and Bonnie's mum. And it's a really, really interesting insight. But what's interesting is it's from their family's viewpoint. So I think this is really great information to have, but also take it with a pinch of salt and think, "Are they biased and just seeing their little angels as they are?" So that was really helpful to read that book. And also a movie called The Highwaymen, which is really good. It's about the other side, the law enforcement that actually went to hunt Bonnie and Clyde down. So you don't actually see Bonnie and Clyde - they don't feature so much. It's about how law enforcement dealt with all of their crimes. That was really good to have an idea of what it was like on the other side of the track.

What is it like taking on such an iconic and/or infamous historical figure and making it your own?

It's really fun! And I think I'm not going to say that there is or isn't a lot of pressure because there's not a lot of media, in the sense of knowing how she was as a person or character. Today, with people more current, you'll have movies, videos, online social media, in which you can see their mannerisms, how they walk and how they talk. But back then, it's photos. So you've got to gauge how her character is and then just reading and doing the research.

At the end of the day, this is a piece of theatre, so I've got to make it work for the theatre and for the scenes that are written before me. You pick and choose what works for the scene. But what's really nice about the way it's written and her character is the journey that she goes on from being this almost innocent girl that works in a diner with big dreams and dreams of being famous and then led astray by love and passion and becomes infamous. So in a way, she is famous, just not the way that she dreamt she would be. But she's not this sweet, innocent person which could be really boring if she was. She's really fierce, really passionate, and a strong leading woman, which is always so much more enjoyable to play.

What has it been like having been with this show for so long and seeing it change and develop?

It's amazing. All in all, if you add up all three runs, it's not even been a year! The difference is, it's been broken up, so there's time to go away, do other things, and come back to it. And it's not just like stepping right back into the same thing - it's changed every time. Which is amazing because unlike your long contracts, where you're just there in a show doing the same thing every night, there's time to go away and reflect and think, "Oh, I wonder if I could try this time!" You never get to do that. And also with it changing venue and changing some cast, that changes things automatically because new people bring new things for everyone to work with. So it's been really fun getting to change and grow with the show.

Interview: 'You Never Take The Audience For Granted': Frances Mayli McCann on The Enduring Appeal of BONNIE & CLYDE Do you have a favourite scene from the show?

I really like "This Time 'Round." So in The Arts, the scene with Bonnie and Blanche before "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" has now been cut up into two scenes. I think it's one of my favourites, doing that with Jodie. The first part of that scene is now after the bathtub, and it's catty, but there's a real depth to it. I really enjoy doing that because Jodie and I are actually really good friends, and then on stage, we're just provoking each other! So I really like doing that scene. But there's so many fun things and it always changes. There's always a different song that gets stuck in my head every night! [Laughs]

What is it been like to see audience reactions?

Oh, it's been great. It's always great, which is such a gift. You'll do many shows, you'll get a great reaction. But with this, it's always been absolutely crazy from the start. You never take it for granted. It's just really nice to know that people love the show and so many people come back time and time again to see it. So it's nice to be part of something that people really, really love. I'm just glad that we can be there to provide that for them.

What is it about Bonnie & Clyde in particular that has people coming back so many times?

I'd say firstly, the music. Because Frank Wildhorn's music is just so incredible. They're all epic, they're all anthems, they're all earworms; they get stuck in your head. And they're pop songs as well, so easy listening. But I think the story itself, how these young people are escaping these hard times, it's obviously not ideal that they did it committing crimes, but just doing they have to do to get out of these tough times. Their love, their passion, how they always stuck together. And because they were young, they're not the underdogs, but people can relate to in a way.

This was during the Great Depression as well - What we just went through, lockdown and Covid, we can relate to that because we were stuck and we were distracted. Especially for younger generations, that's a real stunt in growing up. So no wonder people were breaking the rules - We're not meant to be caged!

Interview: 'You Never Take The Audience For Granted': Frances Mayli McCann on The Enduring Appeal of BONNIE & CLYDE What do you hope audiences take away from Bonnie & Clyde?

Don't commit crimes, because they get caught! [Laughs]

But it's weird because although they're the bad guys, you also want them to feel for them. Even though spoiler alert at the beginning, you know what happens, we still take you on the journey of the story. We just want you to stay with us. And I hope that by the end you think, "Oh, that's a shame," after all that they've been through and you see their relationship grow, how it ends . . . I guess it is quite heartbreaking.

And how would you describe the show in one word?

I always say thrilling, but I feel like this time round it's a bit more dangerous. I think it's bigger and it's darker. I think Nick wanted to fill the space more and just push the boundaries a little bit more.

Bonnie & Clyde is at the Garrick Theatre until 20 May

Photo Credits: The Other Richard


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