Five Burning Questions with Tony Award Winner Frances Ruffelle
Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle is back in NYC with a concert New York theatre folks can't stop talking about, Frances Ruffelle Live(S) in New York!The original star of Broadway and London's Les Miserables takes the stage at the swanky, fun new venue The Green Room 42 on March 24 as part of her monthly residence. BroadwayBox caught up with the international star to discuss returning to NYC, her damaged Tony Award, and her love affair with Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party.
1. There are dozens of versions of you performing “On My Own” on YouTube. Do you have a favorite version?
Ooooh I didn’t know there were dozens! Back in the ‘80s before iPhones, and because of musician union rules, there wasn’t much footage of me performing "On My Own.” So I think my favourite would be the one where I sing it on the BBC’s Wogan show a few days before the London Les Miserables transferred to the West End from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I did it to promote Les Miserables, an amazing show that had terrible reviews in London but Cameron Mackintosh believed in it so much that he took the chance to transfer it. I hope this performance helped. I think it’s a simple honest performance and it’s how I was directed by the amazing Trevor Nunn and John Caird. I was very young and I remember being so scared, I couldn’t feel my mouth move. It also has the original lyrics in the which were changed for the Broadway production.
2. I love your performance of Piaf’s “No, je ne regretted rien”. When’s a time in your career you wish you had said yes when you had said no and vice versa?
Ha Ha, never! No, that’s not true. I did do a show in London which will remain nameless, because a good friend was in it and he thought it would be fun to work together. He persuaded me, though I take full responsibility of my own choice. I had the worst time, though we are still the best of friends. And, oh yeah, the director was fired two days before we opened. What a disaster.
3. Where do you keep your Tony Award?
It’s been in lots of different places. It started out at my parents’ house as I didn’t want to put it up in my home— as I don’t like to flaunt all my work on the walls and shelves of my own home. But after many years I wanted to have my awards back to look at to build myself up when I was going through a sticky patch. I then enjoyed having it up and teasing my friends. You see, the Tony Award disc fell off the day I got it and I used to balance it on and when my friends picked it up to hold, the disc would fall to the floor and they would be mortified thinking they just broke it. I would laugh, then we would laugh. Then after that time I kept my awards away in a drawer. Now I have my Tony Award with me in New York. It’s a well-travelled award. I brought it back here only a few days ago. Know anyone who can fix it? There is a theatre cafe in London who would like to display it… I did say they could..I had better get it fixed. Help!
4. You’re such a storyteller when you sing. Do you have a favorite lyricist? What speaks to you about their work?
Lyrics are very important to me. All the songs I sing in my show tell a story. In fact my show "Frances Ruffelle LIVEs in New York" tells a story; it’s not a cabaret really as each song moves the story forward and in-between instead of patter I say monologues I wrote with my co-creator Gwyneth Herbert. In fact, the lyrics are so important that I wanted to sing a beautiful French song in English but could not find great English lyrics for it so I wrote them myself. Though going back to my favourite lyricist… it's Michael John LaChiusa. I totally get him, and now we have become friends, and I think he gets me too. I sing a beautiful song of his from The Wild Party in my show called "This is What It Is." It’s so beautiful yet so real:
This is what it is to wake up, yeah,
This is what it is to feel warm, yeah.
This is what it is to be filled, sure.
This is what it is to be lost, help.
This is what it is to be scared, God,
Singing those lyrics get me all the time. Then there’s Stephen Sondheim, Maury Yeston, Cole Porter. I love love love and the list is endless…
5. You haven’t been back to Broadway since playing Eponine in 1987. What’s the closest you came to coming back in a show?
There hasn’t been another close moment. I lived in London and brought up three children; I couldn’t even think about moving so far away, but now they have flown the nest I have decided to take the challenge to move to New York. Hence the title of my show and I really do love it here. So here goes… I have a couple of projects I am co-producing, so hopefully I will be performing on Broadway again someday soon.
Don't miss Frances Ruffelle live at The Green Room 42 in 'Frances Ruffelle Live(S) in New York!' on March 24 at 7 PM.