AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH RUTHIE HENSHALL
at the Civic Theatre
A different definition of "intimate". The stage obscured by swirling haze, retinas burned by spotlights, enough sound reinforcement to fill a space twice the size. But heart-on-sleeve, Oprah-sofa intimacy aplenty, with true confessions and disarming honesty.
This agreeably intimate evening blended a songbook of numbers from Ruthie's glittering career, and a stream of reminiscence and armchair philosophy. Names were dropped, family and friends remembered, backstage secrets shared. [I never knew Fantine got to man the barricades while waiting to come back as a ghost …]
Most of the music was from the shows, of course. Chicago, She Loves Me, Guys and Dolls, Crazy for You, not to mention Les Mis.
A couple from her beloved Gershwin, and from Billy Joel, including her anthem [title track of the new album] I've Loved These Days, and the poignant Lullabye, written for his little girl, and dedicated to her two daughters. And two from the comic cabaret collection, Tom Lehrer's Poisoning Pigeons, unknown to most of the audience, I suspect, but sung with some style, and Siren Song, from the West End Revue Intimacy at 8.30, sung by Joan Sims in 1954, also unknown, but shamelessly spoiled by over-egging.
Unknown to me, but a gem of social observation, was Blizzard of Lies, by Dave Frishberg.
Miss Henshall has a strong stage presence, a versatile voice, and a sassy personality. Naturally, she puts across a number with effortless style. Some good character work, too, as Miss Adelaide, for instance, or Amalia Balash. And a stunning opener, a smoky, jazzy bluesy reworking of A Hard Day's Night, arranged, like all of her songs, by her excellent pianist Paul Schofield.