The award-winning musical Urinetown is set to make a splash when it arrives in the West End at the end of the month. It transfers to the Apollo Theatre following a critically acclaimed, sold-out run at the St James Theatre earlier this year, which not only marked the UK première of the show, but also marked the show itself as one of the most eagerly anticipated new productions to come to London in 2014. Urinetown may be hitting ‘The Big Time’ now, but the way to the West End was paved by the St James Theatre, which gave the musical its first home here in the UK and once again showed itself to be an innovative force of excellence within the theatre industry.
The St James Theatre has not only given a platform to a few of the must-see Off-West End productions of the year, but also some of the most talented individuals involved in the wonderful world of theatre. The venue has a particular affinity with the new, having had numerous new shows, composers and singers stand upon its stage over the years, but there are also those rare, exciting occasions where the new and the known meet in a fusion of creative brilliance for a extra special night of entertainment that is really not to be missed. The recently announced appearance of musical theatre legend, Frances Ruffelle, at the St James Theatre is surely one such occasion.
Any respectable theatre fan will know this classic actress and singer, whose name is synonymous with one of the biggest and most successful musicals in the history of theatre. She of course originated the role of Eponine in Les Miserables, first in the West End and then on Broadway. It was the role that earned her a shelf-full of theatrical awards, including the coveted Tony Award, and launched a career that would see her become one of the most well-known figures in the world of theatre. Les Mis may be the defining moment of her stage career, but she has performed in many more musical productions over the years (Starlight Express, Children of Eden, Chicago, Piaf) and extended her success beyond the stage to also take on TV and film roles, as well as the challenge of becoming a recording artist – five solo albums say she more than met that particular challenge.
In addition to making solo albums, she has also created solo shows which have been performed internationally and been met with high praise from fans and critics alike. It is in one of these solo shows that she makes her return to the London stage next month for a strictly limited engagement at the St James Theatre.
Paris Original is the follow-up to her last solo show, Beneath The Dress, which was named one of Playbill’s Unforgettable Theatre Experiences of 2013. She premièred her latest show (which was produced by Danielle Taranto) at Crazy Coqs last October and all five performances quickly sold out, so she and the show are back by popular demand for an exclusive set of performances at the St James Studio. Frances Ruffelle makes her début at the St James in Paris Original, which runs there from 1st – 3rd October 2014 before it travels overseas to New York for further dates.
The show was devised by Frances Ruffelle in collaboration with Matt Ryan, and is produced by as expected by the title, has been created with a French twist in mind. Her ‘zestful and feminine performance celebrating all things ‘ooh la la” will feature the talented songstress performing music by the likes of Francoise Hardy, Edith Piaf, Francis Lai and Claude Michel Schonberg, in addition to an extra special treat for her Les Mis fans. She will be singing a previously unheard song by Schonberg, which was written specifically for the role of Eponine but which was cut from Les Miserables in the end. What kind of French-themed night would it be without at least a nod to the French-themed musical that was such a big part of her life?
Frances Ruffelle is now just as iconic in the world of theatre as the character of Eponine is, and her upcoming show is a rare chance for theatre fans to see this timeless stage performer up close and personal. The St James Theatre has one again outdone itself by hosting such a distinguished member of the entertainment industry, and every dedicated theatre-goer should beg, borrow or steal to secure a ticket for the event. Ruffelle may once again be ‘on my own’, but this time, it’s a good thing as what more could any fan want than just her and her voice with a stage for her to stand on?
Frances Ruffelle appears in Paris Original at the St James Studio from 1st – 3rd October 2014
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 16th September 2014