Review: Ruthie Henshall and Her Band, Bury Theatre Royal, March 5

Ruthie Henshall and her band. Photo: Contributed

Ruthie Henshall and her band. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

The evening may have been billed as Ruthie Henshall and her Band but what we got was a brilliant guided tour through some of the finest moments of modern theatre, courtesy of Ruthie and her special guests Kerry Ellis and Tom Barber, along with Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens.

It was certainly Ruthie Henshall’s evening but she didn’t mind sharing the stage with her talented co-stars. Ruthie not only took us on a guided tour of her career but also performed some of the most iconic numbers from modern musical theatre – interspersed with anecdotes from her time in various shows.

Ruthie started the evening with Some People from Gypsy which is all about having a dream for showbusiness and this proved to be the theme of the evening. During the two-and-half hour show she visited Les Miserables, Crazy For You, Evita and a host of other shows. She shared two duets with fellow Suffolk West End star Kerry Ellis, I Still Believe from Miss Saigon – a show they had both performed in – and What Is This Feeling from Kerry’s hit show Wicked.

Kerry also delivered an emotional No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young) from We Will Rock You before raising the rafters with Defying Gravity from Wicked.

One of the more inspired but off-the-wall elements of the evening was Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens recreation of elements of their Olivier nominated West End show Eric and Little Ern. Whereas as most tribute shows are impersonations and impersonations tend to be caricatures Ian and Jonty successfully managed to capture the spirit of Morecambe and Wise and left the audience feeling that they had encountered the spirit of the originals – complete with a comic backing performance for Ruthie’s rendition of the Sondheim classic Send In The Clowns.

She also introduced the audience to 17 year old rising star Tom Barber who she discovered in a student production of Spring Awakening.

The evening drew to a close with a powerful I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables before Ruthie topped that with a stunning All That Jazz from Chicago.

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A spectacular night full of Suffolk talent which earned a fully deserved standing ovation.

Andrew Clarke

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