Profile: Ruthie Henshall
If you ask regular West End theatregoers to name some of performers that routinely grace the stages of the nation’s capital there’s a handful that might come to mind, from musical theatre’s Sheridan Smith to dramatic actor Mark Rylance. However, there’s another name that is likely to crop up as well in the form of Ruthie Henshall, currently starring in Billy Elliot The Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre.
That high profile production actually announced its closure recently, with performances coming to an end in April 2016. As this announcement has brought the show back into the news it seems like a good time to take a look at the career of one of the musical’s biggest stars.
Born in London in 1967, performance has always been on the mind of Ruthie Henshall, first with her aspirations of ballet and then with acting. She trained at the Laine Theatre of Arts in Surrey and later made her first appearances on the stage, culminating in her first West End appearance in Cats.
Cats is rightly regarded as one of the biggest musicals to grace a London stage in recent decades and during the show’s long run in the capital from 1981 Henshall took on various parts. She joined the cast in 1987 and from them until 1989 she played the parts of Jemima, Jellyorum, Grizabella and Demeter. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical closed in 2002 (though it has since been revived) and at the time was the longest running musical in the capital.
Henshall appeared in the show that eventually surpassed it when she played Fantine in Les Misérables at the Palace Theatre in 1992 (and as part of an anniversary performance in 1995). Her other big roles include Velma Kelly in Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre and the title role in Peggy Sue Got Married at the Shaftesbury Theatre, which earned her a Laurence Olivier Award nomination.
But what about Laurence Olivier Award wins? She earned the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for She Loves Me at the Savoy Theatre in 1994 and her career has also seen her snap up a range of other nominations.
She joined the cast of Billy Elliot The Musical in 2014 as Mrs Wilkinson. The character runs the ballet class that sparks the talents of the title character and is also the one to suggest that Billy attends the Royal Ballet School.
Audiences can see her in the role at the Victoria Palace Theatre.