Review – Ruthie Henshall Sounds of Hollywood, Royal Festival Hall

Monday 1 November 2010

“Julie Andrews was my inspiration,” gushed Ruthie Henshall as she steeled herself to wrestle another semi-anecdote to the ground before it could emit a punchline.

In the sense of doing a show in which you leave most of the performing to other people?


While the musical theatre cognoscenti were packed into the Queen’s Theatre yesterday afternoon the Whingers – ever determined to plough their own pointless furrow – were at the Royal Festival Hall to witness Ruthie Henshall Sounds of Hollywood which is apparently doing a little tour.

Our furrow unearthed a valuable lesson: always read the small print, especially if there isn’t any.

Yes, Mr Raymond Gubbay, one of the men who brought us The Gift Of Music is on to a winner with his new formula. The Whingers went to see Ruthie Henshall Sounds of Hollywood and ended up seeing Ruthie Henshall Sounds of Hollywood “backed by a talented cast”.

When Ruthie wasn’t around (about half the time) and sometimes when she was, they sung, they danced, they wore hats. Who were they? No idea. Their identities don’t even make it onto Gubbay’s website. Ruthie mangled another semi-anecdote by saying that the singers were brilliant and that she had asked Gubbay to get singers that made her look brilliant. If we had bought a copy of the programme for £4 we might have found out but from a glance at the cover we had assumed  they were selling paper doll books.

When the Whingers emerged blinking into what was left of the light during the interval Phil expected to find the Royal Festival Hall had been converted into a cruise ship and had set sail for Hollywood but had run into difficulties and was aborting at 1972.

This was supposed to have been an off-duty “theatre for pure pleasure” day and the Whingers hadn’t intended to write anything about it but then ….

What went wrong? The Whingers are normally enthusiastic about Henshall, she was top of her game when they saw her earlier in the year when she returned to Chicago paired with the wonderful Anna Jane Casey, a performance which, for reasons we never really understood, we weren’t allowed to talk about at the time, which is a shame as they were both terrific. Heck,we even got an eyeful of one of her kazongas in Marguerite and still don’t hold it against her. We just hope she doesn’t hold it against us.

So, really, Henshall was comfortably  in credit at the Whinger Bank of Goodwill (a very under-capitalised institution, as you might imagine) until yesterday.

Ruthie would come on ramble on about what Mickey Rooney said to her, do a couple of songs and then go off and let the four stooges take over. They were competent enough singers but they were redundant. To keep the audience entertained they were forced to move around the stage and dance a bit and – showing an astonishing lack of faith in the quality of the American Songbook – to mime the words for us. So in “The Trolley Song” they were all called upon to hold one hand up as though gripping onto overhead handles and bounce up and down.  The relentless naffness of the whole thing was just draining and the Whingers came out feeling quite depressed.

To call the lumpen piles of words between the numbers “patter” would be misleading. It was as if Henshall were  thinking of things to say on the spur of the moment. Is it really such a fine line between informal and incoherent? As she left the stage, she bid us “Safe home!” which is a new one on us. An Internet search reveals that it may be common in Ireland but Ruthie was born in Bromley.

There were satisfactory moments to be salvaged from the wreckage: Ruthie’s singing and in particular her renditions of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” and “The Man That Got Away” were rather  thrilling. Oh and it turns out that she has a gift for impersonating people – including Julie Andrews.

But this was just too close for comfort.

15 Responses to “Review – Ruthie Henshall Sounds of Hollywood, Royal Festival Hall”

  1. JohnnyFox Says:

    sounds like I wasn’t far wrong when she asked me the way to the toilet at the Union Theatre and I said “it’s the room with your career in it”

    hopefully she’ll bounce right back when the next good part comes along

  2. JohnnyFox Says:

    which of course could be Elvira in Blithe Spirit in which she opens 2.3.11 opposite Alison Steadman as Madame Arcati. Was she plugging it?

  3. Michael Says:

    Oh, another truly scrumptious read!
    Thanks for the pure entertainment, WEW; terrific!

    Who is Ruthie Henshaw, btw? Yes, it’s just ignorance on my part, tut tut, but glam + sing isn’t my scene at all.

    Great read!

  4. Peggy Says:

    Lovely stuff!Thanks for saving me some cash-won’t bother next Sunday when she’s in Manchester.

  5. Dickie and Butch Says:

    Invited to this; said no. Did right. PS. Love Ruthie – shame about Marguerite.

  6. Dean Porter Says:

    We were there too – and you are spot on as usual! Generally too much gurning/jazz-hands for our liking.

  7. Esther Says:

    D&B: Thanks for letting us know you were invited. We were all wondering.

  8. Dickie and Butch Says:

    Esther: Thanks for not leaving an e-mail address or any personal details. At least we all now know to avoid any comments by anybody named ‘Esther’ – Rantzen or otherwise.

  9. Ali67 Says:

    Poor Ruthie. She doesn’t seem to know when to say no these days to tacky jobs…. Heard her singing on Radio 2 last week and she’s turning into Liza… Straining for notes and too much vibrato. Such a shame.

  10. Kurt Says:

    Ali67 is right. I was shocked by the resemblance to latterday Liza Minnelli on Wogan last week. Get Ruthie to Patti LuPone’s voice teacher!

    p.s. I’ve no LuPone fan but technically her 60-odd year old voice IS in great shape.

  11. Ali67 Says:

    To hear Ruthie sing on the She Loves Me recording is as close to perfection as you can get… Shame she smokes like a chimney and has no voice classes… She’s doing herself a real disservice…

  12. Robert L Says:

    Please come and review me in Onassis: we’re feeling VERY left out!

  13. george Says:

    Went to see Ruthie in Hollywood at Symphony Hall Birmingham last tuesday and was most disappointed. Sound balance was all over the place and her lower register was poor. Love her generally but am unable to recomment this show, content tended to be a bit heavy on the brash side. I hope in was her entourage who did any sound checks and not Symphony Hall staff.

  14. Jade Says:

    Ok so I’m commenting this quite late but I feel that someone needs to stand up for the show which quite frankly, I found very enjoyable. I understand the complaints that the was a lack of Ruthie on stage herself but the other singers there were very talented and I enjoyed every moment of their performance. The show isn’t for everyone, people complain of the jazz hands and performance, however I loved that side of it…. it brought the stage to life. And as for Ruthie’s time on stage simply talking, I found that one of the most intriguing parts of the show. It made it more personal and allowed her fans a chance to get to know her in a small way.

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