Frances Mayli McCann discusses filmed version of Bonnie and Clyde: ‘The whole process and concert were a whirlwind’

The Drury Lane staging, which also stars Jeremy Jordan, is streaming now!

Frances Mayli McCann in a scene from Bonnie and Clyde
Frances Mayli McCann in Bonnie and Clyde, provided by the production

Frances Mayli McCann has a host of West End credits to her name, productions like Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour and Heathers the Musical, among others. But her most acclaim to date is for Frank Wildhorn, Don Black, and Ivan Menchell’s Bonnie and Clyde.

The musical first premiered on Broadway in 2011, where a short run netted cult acclaim and a Tony nomination for the score. In 2022, McCann and original leading man Jeremy Jordan took to the stage in a concert-style production at Theatre Royal Drury Lane that led to not one, but two fully staged West End runs. For her performance as the titular outlaw Bonnie Parker, McCann earned a WhatsOnStage Award nomination.

With the concert staging now streaming on demand, McCann offers insights into her performance, her approach to the role, and the unique challenges of doing a show like this with just five days of rehearsal.

What do you think of the concert film?
I don’t like to watch these things back! I don’t like the sound. I’m like “Is that what I sound like?” I never like the sound of my voice or how I look. But I think that the team did such an amazing job of capturing the show. It’s quite surprising how beautifully shot it is, considering all they had to work with were two performances. It was nice watching it because the whole process and concert were a whirlwind. Getting to relive that and watch it on the big screen was really quite special.

And it’s remarkable considering that you had five days of rehearsal.
That speaks volumes for the cast that we had, with people like Trevor Dion Nicholas and Debbie Kurup and Gilly Bevan. And Jeremy came in from the States with even less time.

We all came together and put this show on in five days because everyone was so passionate about it and wanted to be part of this premiere. We knew that it was going to be a big thing that was going to be special, so we all stuck together and supported each other. It does speak about how much we cared about it.

Bonnie and Clyde really set the trend for this sort of concert performance of cult musicals in London.
There are so many concerts like this now; this was really the first of its kind. It’s amazing because it’s given people the chance to see and hear other musicals that might not get to be performed here. I guess they hoped that after Bonnie and Clyde, they’d get West End runs, but ours wasn’t a sure thing. Seeing the reaction from everyone, it was a no-brainer. We had to put it on stage because more people wanted and needed to see it.

How did you and Jeremy bond so quickly during such a short rehearsal?
I don’t know. The material lends itself to it. It’s also not difficult to have chemistry with Jeremy Jordan, because he is so wonderful as a human and is so incredibly talented. But there’s no time to think and overthink. You just do it with your gut. And when you enjoy it, things come easy.

You’ve done the show now in venues of so many sizes. How did they all compare to each other?
Selling out the Drury Lane is a huge deal. The Arts Theatre is a fraction of that. This show does lend itself to a small theatre because the audience are right there with you. It made it a lot more intimate, which suited the show. Moving to the Garrick, it was nice to let more audience in to experience the show and have so much more stage to play with. It’s a shame that the Garrick was a limited run, because I feel we could have played for much longer. It took off on another level.

Looking back, what is it like for you to see yourself perform a song like “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad” in the context of this concert, knowing how much deeper it’s gotten over time as the show ran?
“Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad” was part of my rep. I’ve been singing it in auditions for years. Watching the concert, I realize I sing it completely differently now, because I’ve had the time to think and let it evolve. We only had five days to put together the concert. You just follow your first instinct and go with it: let’s just try and remember the words and what scene comes next. When we did the West End runs, we had more time to develop it and research. My understanding of Bonnie was fuller and deeper. I feel like my whole portrayal of Bonnie completely changed for the West End.

On the music side of things, a lot of composers don’t let you stray. You follow the dots and have small wiggle room to make it your own. Frank Wildhorn is completely different, and I didn’t know this coming into work with him. Because he writes pop music, he says “This is what I’ve written, but make it your own.” So, you may add in a few riffs here and there, change it a little bit, and he pushes you to do more.

And for those that watch it and then listen to our album, they’ll hear the two different versions of it.

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