Theatre, Musicals & Concerts – Views & Reviews
Chelsea’s charming Cadogan Hall was the setting for what was billed as An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall, and despite a large crowd the intimacy was maintained with a set list chosen by Ruthie to describe the highs and lows of her career and life, coupled with anecdotes that were humorous, inspiring and often incredibly personal.
The three piece band took to a softly lit hazy stage – MD and pianist Paul Schofield; guitarist Lewis Andrews and Steve MacLachlan on drums. Ruthie’s voice made its entrance before she did, singing the first few bars of a slow and sensual cover of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, then she took to the stage to rapturous applause in a stunning turquoise dress, seemingly see-through in places as if she had been draped in a web of crystals.
The choice of songs reflected her varied career starring in musicals in the West End and Broadway, and her three solo albums. Her voice is as versatile as ever – powerfully belting out showtunes such as Don’t Rain On My Parade; silky smooth deliveries of Gershwin standards Nice Work If You Can Get It and They All Laughed; cheeky and endearingly funny in Adelaide’s Lament, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park and The Siren Song (the latter being new to me – I’ll never be able to keep a straight face on a train platform again, especially at Woking!).
Although each of these styles are impressive enough, for me it’s her ability to captivate and move an audience that has kept me a fan for so long. Her cover of Don McClean’s Vincent was dedicated to her sister, and made a heartfelt and beautiful tribute. Send In The Clowns proved she can make a standard her own and keep it sounding fresh, despite it being so well known; similarly for Electricity - so much so that it took me a while to register that it was the song from Billy Elliot.
Even after introducing I Dreamed A Dream by mocking the wig she had to wear for the 10th anniversary concert of Les Miserables and how it barely moved when she turned her head, she still managed to move her audience from laughter to tears, many of us needing the interval that followed to recover from such an incredible performance.
One of the few actresses to have played both Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly in Chicago, Ruthie introduced ‘her boys’ with a variation on the Roxie theme song before giving us a taste of what her Mama Morton might be like with a suitably brazen rendition of When You’re Good To Mama.
Ruthie introduced Kerry Ellis as her special guest for the evening, who “blew her away” when she first met her in a masterclass she was holding at her old drama school in Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom. Kerry was visibly pregnant and gave a performance of her single No-one But You (Only The Good Die Young) (a song originally released in 1997 by the surviving members of Queen and eventually performed by Kerry in their 2002 musical We Will Rock You) so rousing that her expected child is probably already considering a career in musical theatre!
Ever since Ruthie announced via twitter that Kerry would be her special guest and that she was trying to find a suitable duet for them, my mind had been wandering trying to guess what they might sing together. I hadn’t even considered Let Me Be Your Star from the NBC TV drama Smash, a perfect choice to showcase their unique but complementary voices. This was followed by I Still Believe from Miss Saigon, with Ruthie pointing out that she’d kindly “taken the older role”!
Finishing with two songs written by Billy Joel, Lullaby and I’ve Loved These Days, and the inevitable encore of All That Jazz, the whole evening had been both immensely entertaining and highly intimate. At several points there were times where I’d felt like the only person watching, or despite being six rows from the front, that Ruthie was singing directly to me. Hopefully it won’t be long before we see this star of the West End and Broadway return to the London stage.
Kerry Ellis – Special Guest Vocalist
Paul Schofield – Piano/Music Director
Lewis Andrews – Bass/Guitar
Steve MacLachlan – Drums