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Bonnie & Clyde - Broadway

Legendary outlaws take the Broadway stage in this new musical by Frank Wildhorn.

Melissa van der Schyff on How Harrison Ford and Miles Davis Led to her Broadway Breakout in Bonnie & Clyde

Melissa van der Schyff on How Harrison Ford and Miles Davis Led to her Broadway Breakout in Bonnie & Clyde
Melissa van der Schyff photographed by Jenny Anderson for Broadway.com at Sardis
Even though it led her down an unfortunate path, everything [Blanche] did was out of love.

Age & Hometown: “Between Miley Cyrus and Dame Judi Dench”; Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Current Role: Keeping the Barrow Gang on the straight and narrow as God-fearing Blanche in Bonnie & Clyde.

One of the Guys: It was adventure, not glamour, that first drew van der Schyff to performing. “What really made me want to be an actor was the Indiana Jones movies,” she says. “I loved Harrison Ford and I wanted to be Indiana Jones. I also always wanted to be [his Star Wars character] Han Solo, even though other kids told me I had to be Leia.” The pattern held when van der Schyff joined the cast of The Lemmings, a sketch comedy show that claims John Belushi and Chevy Chase among its original members. She created characters including a 12-year-old Scottish boy named Gordy Scott MacGregor and a one-eyed jazz singer. “He’s also a man,” van der Schyff said with a laugh. “I don’t know what that’s all about.”

Chanteuse-in-Training: Her Bonnie & Clyde sound is decidedly twangy, but van der Schyff started singing in a different style altogether. “I was going to be a jazz singer,” says the actress, who started gigging around her hometown when she was just 15. “I used to listen to Miles Davis and John Coltrane solos and try to imitate their horns with my voice. To this day, I pretty much have all those solos memorized, so if I sing along to them I kind of freak people out.” She majored in music and theater at the College of Santa Fe, but didn’t limit herself to her favorite genre. “I studied opera, musical theater and pop stuff,” she says. Being multi-faceted came in handy post-college: While she continued performing in jazz clubs in Los Angeles, the always industrious performer also did a lot of studio singing “because I love morphing.” 

The Barrow Gang: In L.A., van der Schyff developed a sideline as a hand model (“I like to tell people that I’m a former model, because it’s not really lying!”) before landing a role in Deaf West's production of Big River, which eventually became her Broadway debut. The production was directed by her Bonnie & Clyde's Jeff Calhoun, who asked van der Schyff to play Blanche Barrow in the show’s early workshops. “What I love about her is her sense of loyalty,” van der Schyff says of her character, the devoted wife of Clyde Barrow’s brother Buck. “Even though it led her down an unfortunate path, everything she did was out of love.” It helps that she was “instant best friends” with her Buck, Claybourne Elder. “He’s so generous and talented,” van der Schyff gushes. “To this day, we meet before the show to talk. We call it 'Couples Counseling.’”

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