She may be one of our best known and most glamourous stars of stage and screen but as a working mum, Ruthie Henshall still has to deal with the fall-out from half-term’s relaxation of bedtime rules and regulations.
“We had a sleep-over last night,” sighs the mother of two young girls. “There were four of them, I was on my own, and I think I heard the last whisperings at about half past midnight. So yippee, I’m not sure how gorgeous those tired girls will be today!”
Still, onwards and upwards.
This evening at 7.30pm, Ruthie will exchange her maternal persona for her uber-glam stage one as she comes to the Tivoli in Wimborne for An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall.
With 25 years of West End and Broadway stardom to draw upon, the show is crammed with memories and songs from the wonderful, escapist world of musical theatre.
Ruthie said: “The show started with me going through my life and career and the songs from my career. Once I started going through it, they came thick and fast and I kept thinking ‘oh, I remember this one!’.
“Then I started weaving stories in about the people I have met and the shows I have done. I talk a lot about the backstage things, which is always fun, and I think the audience has a great laugh too. There are also some fabulous songs from the musicals, of course, and songs by people like the Beatles and Billy Joel.
“With songs, I need a good tune but I also need lyrics that mean something. Billy Joel sings a song called I Have Loved These Days and that sums up my life really well.”
She continued: “At first I felt really vulnerable because I was on stage as me, not playing a character in a show, but I love it now, I absolutely love it. And the audiences have been great, I love their reaction, it feeds the show.”
Ruthie decided she wanted a career on stage as a young girl watching the old MGM musicals on film.
“I fell in love with the musicals through those films and I still think they are phenomenal,” she said. “Other films seems to age but they never will because they have a style and an era that can never be touched.”
She trained at Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom and at the age of 21 was picked to play a bar girl in Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.
Four years later Ruthie was named as Fantine in Les Miserables and her first starring role was in Crazy for You a year later, which crossed the Atlantic to Broadway.
Since then she has rarely been out of work, being nominated five times for the Olivier Awards – and winning one for She Loves Me – appearing in musicals and straight theatre and appearing on television as a judge in Dancing on Ice and in the American hit series Curb Your Enthusiasm.
She has written a book of advice to would-be performers called So You Want to be in Musicals?, and formed her own production company, for which she is currently looking for shows.
An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall is a celebration of a quarter-century’s work and enjoyment – and a timely reminder for youngsters that there is no quick route to fame and riches, whatever the reality TV shows say.
“We are in a culture that leads people to believe in fast riches and fame, but most people in theatre and musical theatre start in the chorus and work up from there,” she said.
“You can’t believe your luck when you get your first part, it’s wonderful, but even as you progress you always have to keep yourself ready, be continually working on your craft in case you get the call for ‘the’ job.
“I still work hard, because if I get the call to join a dance show, I’m not a gym person so I don’t want to go and have an intense time getting fit at the gym. So I keep my fitness up and I look after my voice.”
And her advice for anyone dreaming of following in her footsteps?
“Be completely passionate about it. You probably won’t get rich or famous from it and there will be a fair amount of time that you will spend out of work. But if it really is your passion you need to eat, sleep and breathe it and you will have the most wonderful time in the most wonderful and privileged career.
“Because, basically, you get to play and dress up for a living and entertain people – and that is a real privilege and you must never forget it.”
An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall is at the Tivoli tonight, March 1