Christine Baranski, Russell Watson and Ruthie Henshall are set to star in a concert production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Follies at the Royal Albert Hall on 28 April. Directed by Craig Revel Horwood, with choreography by Andrew Wright, the music for the production will be performed by the City of London Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Follies musical, performed in the West End in 1987, reached London after successful stage productions across the US, including in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Michigan, Texas, Washington and Massachusetts. Follies went on to experience a world-wide theatre revival between 2001 and 2013, where it was then performed at the Toulon Opera House in France.
The musical has its historical roots in 19th century Parisian musical theatre. Follies first hit Broadway in 1971 and enjoyed 522 performances across New York. Written by Sondheim, one of America’s most renowned musical theatre composers, Follies benefitted from Sondheim’s huge musical talent. Oscar Hammerstein II became a surrogate mentor to Sondheim, who was rapidly enchanted with musical theatre. The inspiration for Follies came from reading a New York Times article about showgirls from the real-life Ziegfeld Follies and their lives.
A story was created focusing on two ex-showgirls who attend a reunion act for the Weismann Follies. Based on the Ziegfeld Follies, which entertained America in the roaring 20s, the story tells us how showgirls performing in the US became celebrities very quickly. Despite this, fame was fickle, and short-lived for most.
Follies has been just as much a success recently as it was in the 1970s. It has thematic implications for feminism and women’s emancipation, which first struck a chord with the American political classes. The narrative focuses on the culture behind making stars of people overnight, and the fascination with celebrity life. Unsurprisingly, the musical won seven Tony Awards in 1972, including Best Score for Sondheim.
Great news for musical theatre fans everywhere – superstar Ruthie Henshall will be joining the cast of Billy Elliot – The Musical in May to play Billy’s dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, taking over from current Mrs Wilkinson, Anna-Jane Casey. Ruthie has recently been focusing on her solo performances on tour, and will now return to the West End stage for the first time since 2011. The first performance for Ruthie as Mrs Wilkinson will be on 12 May 2014, nine years to the day since the show officially opened at the Victoria Palace Theatre.
Ruthie has become a musical theatre success throughout her years on stage, with other credits including performances in productions such as Chicago, The Woman in White, Marguerite, Les Misérables, Oliver!, Crazy For You, Cats, Miss Saigon and She Loves Me, for which she won an Olivier Award. She was last on stage in Thea Sharrock’s revival of Blithe Spirit at the Apollo Theatre in 2011.
Based on the hit 2000 film and set against the mining strikes of the 1980s, Billy Elliot – The Musical recounts the tale of a boy whose father wants him to learn to box but who instead discovers a love for ballet that leads him from secret lessons to a place at The Royal Ballet School.
Ruthie, having trained at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts, has gone onto inaugural performing arts success in a range of roles and performances spanning many years across the industry. She has recently been performing in her own tour, presenting an anecdotal evening of snippets of her life alongside some of the blockbuster hits she is most famous for. This is in addition to her own material which is a testament to her incredible talent and ultimately, her success as a musical theatre artist.
Musical theatre legend Ruthie Henshall, best known for her starring roles in productions such as Chicago and Les Miserables, is performing as part of the From West End to Broadway programme at Cadogan Hall in an intimate performance in August. In addition to an audience with Ruthie, the star will also be performing alongside her special guest, musical theatre icon and Broadway star Kerry Ellis. Originally training at Laine Theatre Arts, which also presented Ruthie to the musical theatre world, Kerry Ellis then went on to carve herself out a commendable career behind the microphone, particularly as green witch Elphaba in the London cast of Wicked, which she joined in 2006.
At Cadogan Hall however, Ruthie and her band will take the audience on a musical journey through her extraordinary career, from working with Lionel Bart, playing in Chicago on Broadway and starring in many other musical theatre productions, to receiving her Olivier Award. The evening will draw from a broad range of genres, from the Great American Songbook to contemporary scores which are significant to Ruthie now: Don’t Rain On My Parade, I Dreamed A Dream, All That Jazz, Electricity, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Adelaide’s Lament, I’ve Loved These Days, Vincent (Starry Starry Night) and many more of her favourites from iconic stage productions.
This particular show for Ruthie is both new and personal, and her chance to tell her story in her own words as well as performing some of the defining songs of her life, which she has performed onstage and experienced off stage. The evening will be accompanied by Ruthie’s own musicians: Paul Schofield (piano/Music Director), Lewis Andrews (bass/guitar) and Steve Maclachlan (drums). Ruthie’s career has been both extensive and extremely impressive, so this intimate evening is a rare glimpse into the star’s glittering career and personal highlights.
Ruthie Henshall, with her multi-award winning career, has starred in some of the best-loved and popular musicals of the last twenty five years on both Broadway and London’s West End, donning character shoes, leotards and tights and tap shoes throughout. In addition to her tremendous success in plays, in concert and on television, Henshall has starred on stage in Cats, Miss Saigon, Crazy For You, She Loves Me, Marguerite, Oliver!, A Chorus Line, Les Misérables and Chicago. Quite the leading lady… not too mention her stint as a judge on TV show Dancing on Ice!
Following Henshall’s training at the prestigious vocational college Laine Theatre Arts, she went on to join the UK tour cast of A Chorus Line and consequently made her West End debut in Cats, having the chance to play Jemima, Demeter, Jellylorum, Griddlebone and Grizabella. Henshall’s comprehensive and arguably illustrious career has seen her become one of the most popular West End artists, having created roles, been nominated for and won Olivier Awards, and revisiting roles when asked to recreate them, such as Fantine for the tenth anniversary of Les Misérables.
Henshall is perhaps most well known, however, for shaking and shimmying in Chicago, firstly as one of the original London company members of the revival. Henshall has since gone on to play both leads (Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly) in London and on Broadway, spending three years in New York City. Aside from all-performing musicals Henshall has toured extensively in the UK, US and Australia, and is currently touring the UK in An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall, providing audiences with snippets or career through songs and amusing anecdotes from her training and musical theatre days. Without a feather boa in sight Henshall provided a snapshot of her hectic yet completely rewarding schedule, and has eight dates to go!