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Ruthie Henshall - Interview

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 24 / 2 / 2014

Ruthie Henshall - Interview


Nick Dent-Robinson speaks to musical theatre actress Ruthie Henshall about forthcoming one-woman show in which she will be singing Beatles and other cover songs

Ruthie Henshall has starred in some of the biggest shows in the West End and on Broadway. Her tales from the sets of 'Chicago', 'Cats' and 'Les Miserables' are legendary and she has rubbed shoulders with theatrical icons and royalty for years. So it isn't surprising that Ruthie, now 46, has decided to share her experiences with live theatre audiences. Her current one-woman show sees her telling anecdotes and singing the hit songs that made her career. “This is a walk through my career and life using songs and stories,” Ruthie says. “It is about the amazing people I've met, the things I've done with all the ups and downs. There are songs from the shows but also some Beatles and Billy Joel songs that mean a lot to me...songs everyone will know. It isn't till you reflect back on your life that you realise all the incredible things that happened. And there's something wonderful about appearing in smaller venues with an intimacy and connection with the audience you can never achieve in a very large theatre or concert hall.” Ruthie was raised in suburban Bromley, Kent, the daughter of a journalist and a theatre-loving mum. She knew from a young age she wanted to perform and trained at the Laine Theatre Arts School in Epsom. By nineteen Ruthie was performing professionally and within a year she was in the West End in 'Cats'. After that her career really took off. She appeared in 'Miss Saigon' at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, in 'Children of Eden' at the Prince Edward and at just twenty-five she had won the role of Fantine in 'Les Miserables'. Very soon afterwards she was starring on Broadway in the hit 'Crazy for You'. She went on to win an Olivier award for her role in 'She Loves Me',appeared at the London Palladium as Nancy in 'Oliver' and played Roxie Hart in 'Chicago'. There were concerts at the Royal Festival Hall and Royal Albert Hall and a long list of other successes on Broadway and in the West End. She has also made many TV appearances in both the UK and USA including roles in 'Law and Order' and 'Dr Who'. So, at what point did Ruthie realise she had become a major success? “I can tell you that, exactly,” Ruthie says. “It was at the opening night of 'Chicago' on Broadway. I was standing on the stage of the Schubert theatre and just thought,'Ruthie Henshall from Bromley you are here on a Broadway stage'...it was a moment of great clarity." “I am proud of what I've achieved and happy. I've done what I set out to do and more. I was always a girl in a hurry with the arrogance and confidence of youth. I had places to go - but I got there! I think my determination and energy came from my mother. She'd have loved to be on the stage herself and she had a lot of ambition and passion for her children.” Ruthie's off-stage life has been interesting, too. She had a long-term relationship with Prince Edward, was engaged to 'Gregory's Girl' star John Gordon Sinclair and married 'Peggy Sue Got Married' actor Tim Howar – though they divorced four years ago. She has two daughters, Lily and Dolly, and lives in Suffolk close to her parents. But anyone hoping for royal revelations in her new show will be disappointed. Ruthie is adamant she won't be talking about her exes. “People are far more interested in hearing about Lionel Bart or Stephen Sondheim,” Ruthie insists. There have been many highs in Ruthie's life but some significant lows too. The death of her sister Noel, who suffered a drugs overdose when living in San Francisco fourteen years ago, was one of those. Ruthie recalls her sister's memory in the show with a moving performance of Don McLean's 'Vincent (Starry, Starry Night'). “Nobody gets away with a pain-free life,” Ruthie reflects. “I don't shy away from that. Though I don't labour the point – but I have had things happen to me that were devastating.” “I have had a wonderful life overall though. Being on the stage is great. I'm so glad I had the chance to play the roles I did and I'm proud still to be doing this. Of course there's no security in it and you never know when your next job is coming. But I love it nevertheless!” For details of Ruthie Hensall's tour see www.ruthiehenshall.com

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