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Beneath The Dress – Review

In by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Crazy Coqs, London

****

Back by popular demand, Frances Ruffelle brought her song cycle of a show, Beneath The Dress, to a packed out Crazy Coqs for two nights only.
In what was to prove an eclectic, coquette-ick whirl, Ruffelle ‘s one-woman one-act set drew on a collection of mainstream and left field numbers from both sides of the Atlantic. In parts whimsical and reflective, at other times outrageously celebratory, those who know the singer well may perhaps recognise the moments that she has suggested hint at autobiography.
Ruffelle’s entrance through the crowd offered a provocative wit, with the singer soon into one of her own compositions, Hit Me With A Hot Note, proving she not only possesses one of the most gorgeously controlled and distinctively timbred voices around, her writing is neat too.
Above all, Ruffelle is one of those uber-talented women who defines the craft of acting through song. The students of today need to watch her and learn, as she imbues just the right amount of melancholy into Rodgers and Hart’s Ten Cents A Dance, whilst her take on Lilac Wine the James Shelton 1950 classic and made famous in turn (depending upon your age) by Nina Simone, Elkie Brooks and latterly Katie Melua, was revelatory. Ruffelle understands her songs intimately, coaxing newly discovered nuance and poignancy from numbers we thought we knew well.
The unpredictability to the set list mirrored Ruffelle’s cutely distinctive persona. Tom Waits’ Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis is probably not often heard amidst the art-deco swirls of the Crazy Coqs, likewise the car crash of a number that is Coffee from See What I See. Each though added to the confection of reflection that made up the night.
The show wouldn’t have been complete without a nod to Ruffelle’s most celebrated creation, Les Miserables’ Eponine and with several tributes to Piaf throughout the evening, including an enchanting mash up that saw Piaf’s classic Hymn To Love segueing in and out of Les Mis’ On My Own, it is clear to see Ruffelle has a metier that’s firmly rooted in the entente cordiale.
David Barber’s five piece band were excellent in support and as ever, producer Danielle Tarento’s commitment to excellence had ensured a polished turn. Beneath The Dress show has already toured widely and these two nights were not enough. Ruffelle fills the venue, not just with an audience but a gorgeous ambience too – The Crazy Coqs should get her back soon.

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Beneath The Dress with Frances Ruffelle

In Features by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Frances Ruffelle returns to London’s Crazy Coqs at the end of this week for two nights only. Reprising her acclaimed one-woman show Beneath The Dress, it is no surprise that her Friday night gig is already sold out with only a handful of tickets remaining for Saturday.
Amidst rehearsals and preparation, I caught up with Frances for a brief chat about the show.
JB:    Please tell me, what was the inspiration for Beneath The Dress? 
FR:    Basically I just put together a show that was about myself in a way, but also about situations that I associate with, or singers who I love, or songs that I have been influenced by and songs with situations that I associate with as well. And also it just simply celebrates women who love to entertain. 

It’s really a song cycle more than a cabaret, a story of one woman, but a lot of people when they are watching it, think I am playing different characters. It’s one woman going through her life and starting out as young and excited, with her whole life in front of her and the set evolves into a much more jaded older woman at the end who is basically having to come to terms with stuff and accept life as it is.
JB:    Is there an autobiographical inspiration to the show? 
FR:    Not exactly. But there are moments of me in the show that my friends will recognise. 
JB:    What is the history of the show? 
FR:    I first did it at Madame JoJo’s actually and then I did it in Edinburgh about five years ago. I’ve done it in New York, in Poland, a lot of places. I’d sort of felt as if the show was in my past and I didn’t expect to be doing it again, but then Ruth Leon at the Crazy Coqs who hadn’t seen it, said “Hey how about coming back to the Crazy Coqs and doing Beneath the Dress because I would like to see it”. So here I am!
I’ve added three or four different songs because I thought it would be great for audiences that have seen it before to have something else, and I actually think these songs help tell the story even more. I have refined it.
JB:    Without expecting you to give away any secrets, where do the songs derive from, is it shows, is it the songbooks?
FR:    From absolutely everywhere. From Cole Porter to Tom Waits, to Jacques Brel. I also have also some lyrics that I have written myself.
JB:    How big is your band?
FR:    We have got four pieces, we might have five we are not sure yet. I am going to decide that with David Barber, my MD. Originally the show had a six-piece band, but that’s too much for the Crazy Coqs. Making sure that the show perfectly fits the venue is very important to me.
JB:    And who is producing or directing you?
FR:    Well Danielle Tarento always produces me and originally I had taken direction from Paul Baker. Paul and I have played opposite each other three times in three different productions including my Roxy to his Amos in the West End. He directed me at the Edinburgh Festival and has been really really helpful and amazing as Beneath The Dress has evolved. Funnily enough, I am going to be directing his one man show later this year as well.
JB:    I recall that in your last appearance at the Crazy Coqs in your Paris Original cabaret, the show included several gorgeous costume changes. How many changes of dress make up Beneath The Dress?
FR:    [laughs] Four!

JB:    Sounds fabulous and I am looking forward to seeing the show. Thanks so much for sparing the time to talk!

Frances Ruffelle performs in Beneath The Dress at the Crazy Coqs on Friday April 10 (sold out) and Saturday April 11

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The post Review: The Grand Tour (Finborough Theatre) appeared first on JohnnyFox.

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Review: The Grand Tour (Finborough Theatre)

In Musicals, Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

When the cast of Spamalot sings lustily “You just won’t succeed on Broadway, If you don’t have any Jews!“ it makes you wonder why Jerry Herman’s 1979 The Grand Tour was such a massive flop since its constantly-on-stage hero is a decidedly bearded bacon-dodger. S L Jacobowsky has been serially fleeing the Nazi advance across Europe. […]

The post Review: The Grand Tour (Finborough Theatre) appeared first on JohnnyFox.