Crazy for Ruthie

A Musical Evening with Ruthie Henshall, New Wolsey Theatre, July 15 2012

What a marvellous patron Suffolk Family Carers has in Ruthie Henshall. It’s a charity that is clearly close to her heart, and her reputation as a star in the West End and on Broadway pretty much guaranteed the “returns only” notices outside the Wolsey for Sunday evening’s fund-raising concert.

Ruthie Henshall exudes theatrical glamour, but she has a truly engaging personality that shines through in the little anecdotes and observations on life that interspersed a wonderful anthology of musical theatre gems – most from shows which Henshall herself has appeared in. From Crazy For You, which made her as a star, we had Nice Work If You Can Get It and Someone To Watch Over Me, with Ruthie letting slip that her tap dancing in that show wasn’t her strongest suit – the dance captain, Stephen Mears, now one of country’s top choreographers, described it as like listening to someone dropping cutlery down the stairs. This is a star who is not afraid of a little self-mockery.

By the end, of course, the audience was on its feet – swept there by a brilliantly belted rendition of All That Jazz from Chicago. On the way, she proved her amazing versatility, with decent helpings of Lloyd Webbers and Stephen Sondheim, including a rather beautiful medley by MD Paul Schofield of songs from Sweeney Todd (Nothing’s Gonna Harm You) and Into The Woods (No-one is Alone and Children Will Listen). Then there was, for me, the definitive version of I Dreamed a Dream – a performance that underlined her skills as an actress as well a singer.

A polished band gave Henshall superb support, and an added treat was a performance of considerable maturity by 16 year old singer Lily Ayres, who gave a very moving account of Hallelujah, and also joined Ruthie in the duet I Know Him So Well. Lily, who cares for her mother, is herself a beneficiary of the charity which has offered her practical support and advice over the years – as it has done for countless other family carers – and that’s anyone who, without payment, spends time looking after a relative, child, partner or friend who is ill or has a disability.

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