Star Interview: Ruthie Henshall

Ruthie Henshall
Ruthie Henshall

Some stars of the West End remain familiar to theatre-goers but never achieve fame outside the world of spotlights and greasepaint.

But Ruthie Henshall is one of those names whose stage success has been so great, her celebrity status has gone way beyond the confines of the theatre.

An Olivier Award-winning performer with a stellar career background in the West End and Broadway, Ruthie has played characters ranging from Maggie in A Chorus Line to Fantine in Les Miserables (as part of the musical’s 10th anniversary celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall).

The actress has now embarked on her first regional tour, entitled An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall, which will be staged at The Castle in Wellingborough tomorrow. Ruthie explained: “It is me and a trio and I sort of walk through my life and career, and the songs pertaining to my career.

“It is not just songs from musicals, but songs which have been significant; there is some Joni Mitchell in there and Gershwin.

“I end up having quite a laugh with the audience, but it is a very different thing for me as usually I’m playing a part in a show, but this is just me.”

She continued: “I never imagined wanting to do anything else with my life, but I didn’t start dancing until I was 10, which was quite late I suppose. I always loved the MGM musicals and it was something that was in me.”

Despite her “late” start in some aspects of becoming a stage star, Ruthie has certainly compensated, moving on to play parts in the original West End casts of Crazy For You, Miss Saigon, Oliver, The Woman In White and Peggy Sue Got Married.

It was for the latter show she won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Somehow she has also found time to carve a TV career, appearing in shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Law & Order. She was also a judge on ITV1’s Dancing On Ice, before reprising her role as Roxy in Chicago.

As well as all of this, last year she released her first book, So You Want To Be In Musicals? But does she fear that too many people perceive the pathway to musicals as simply showing off some singing skills on the type of TV talent show which has earned air space several times in recent years. “I think they [the programmes] give the impression that anyone can do it.

“At one end of the scale they do promote musical theatre to an audience which might not normally see them, but we are living in a time when people want to get rich and famous quickly. It looks like it is quite easy to do but the bottom line is that it can be eight shows a week and hard work from that point of view. It is full-on and feast or famine in our business. It is great to get the name you can get from these TV programmes, but you have to have a career. Nowadays people don’t want to work hard, they want it to come easily.

“An important theme from the Olympics is that you can have your turn if you are prepared to work hard.”

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