Ruthie Henshall’s musical journey

Ruthie Henshall
Ruthie Henshall
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Ruthie Henshall will be in Yorkshire with her one-woman show. She talks to Catherine Scott

As a child Ruthie Henshall loved musicals.

Gene Kelly was her idol and she would spend hours watching Singin’ in the Rain on video.

But it wasn’t until she started dance classes at the age of 11 that she knew her future lay in the theatre.

“I just loved ballet and at first thought that I would be a ballet dancer,” says Ruthie, who is currently touring in her own one-woman show An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall which is at Wakefield Theatre Royal on Friday.

“But ballet became too constraining for me and when I realised I could also sing I knew the world of musical theatre was where I belonged.”

Ruthie, now 47, gained a love of theatre as her father, an editor on the Evening Standard, would get to see shows and took his children along.

At the age of 16 she attended the Laine Theatre School in Epsom and got her first West End break in Cats in 1987.

Since then she has never looked back.

“I have been extremely lucky,” she admits. “This is a hard business but I just love it.”

Her career has seen her star in some of the most famous musicals including Chicago, Les Miserables, Crazy For You, Miss Saigon, Oliver!, The Woman In White, Peggy Sue Got Married, She Loves Me and Marguerite to name but a few.

She has been nominated five times for the UK’s most prestigious theatre award, the Laurence Olivier Award, winning once. For the last four years, however, she has taken a back seat from musicals following the break-up of her marriage to actor and singer Tim Howar.

The couple have two children, Lily, 11 and Dolly, nine.

“It is always difficult doing a job like mine and being a parent,” admits Ruthie.

“When my marriage broke down I decided that I needed to be there for my children. They needed some stability in their lives and that doesn’t come with being an actress.”
She did some television work, including Curb Your Enthusiasm, Law & Order, The Sound of Musicals and Doctor Who.

She was also an original judge on ITV1’s Dancing on Ice.

She has also done a number of films, but the theatre has always been her passion, and the inspiration for her current show.

“I was looking back over my career and some of the amazing songs I have sung, people I have met and situations I have been in. And I just thought they would make the basis of a great show. The hard bit was deciding which parts to leave out.

“It also gave me than chance to have a bit of fun. A lot of the parts I play are quite tragic, this show gives me the chance to tell people some of the funny things that have happened to me along the way.

“Although it is also a bit scary as you are putting yourself up there with no character to hide behind.”

As well as wowing the West End and Broadway, Ruthie hit the headline when she dated Prince Edward for a number of years.

Aside from completing the tour of her one woman show, next week she starts rehearsals for Billy Elliot.

“I am looking forward to being back in the West End, but it will also be difficult,” says Ruthie.

“I’ve had to employ a nanny who will pick the 
girls up from school and put them to bed which will be hard on all of us, but it is just the nature of the business I am in.”

• An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall will take you on a musical journey through her extraordinary career, from working with Lionel Bart to playing in Chicago on Broadway, from starring in Les Misérables to receiving her Olivier award. It is a chance to hear Ruthie’s story in her own words as well as some of the defining songs of her life, onstage and off.

The show will be at the Theatre Royal Wakefield on Friday.