As previously tipped (See The Goss, 23 Aug 2005), two West End leading ladies, Joanna Riding and Frances Ruffelle, have been confirmed as the special guest stars for Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s cabaret at the New Players Theatre in December (See News, 7 Sep 2005).

Speaking exclusively to, the pair said they were looking forward to working with Brown, whose many accolades to date in his native US include a Tony Award for Parade, and two Drama Desk Awards for both Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics for his song cycle about the disintegration of a marriage, The Last Five Years.

The new concert, which runs from 7 to 11 December 2005 at the Charing Cross venue, will feature songs from Brown’s new album, Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes, as well as a selection of numbers from his stage shows. And, for the first time in the UK, Brown will be joined by his band, the Caucasian Rhythm Kings.

Double Olivier Award winner Joanna Riding, whose West End credits include My Fair Lady, The Witches of Eastwick, Carousel and Me and My Girl, said: “I am so looking forward to it. Last time I was involved in his concert, it was just for one night and it is going to be great to have the chance to work with him on five performances. Jason is a very funny writer, very darkly funny. There is a lot of humour in his songs, but it is all very subversive.”

She added: “It will be an extra special treat to have his band there. I think that’s something he’s very excited about, and he will be singing some songs himself, which is also very special. It’s not often you get the chance to hear songs actually performed live by their writers.”

The programme has not yet been finalised, but the guest stars will be singing a selection of songs each, including a duet with Brown. And, being so close to Christmas, the show will have a festive theme.

Frances Ruffelle - who created the role of Eponine in Les Miserables and recently played Roxie Hart for the second time in Chicago at the Adelphi - commented: “I think it will be very spontaneous, which is good. Jason is only flying in the day before, so we will have very little rehearsal time with him, but of course we will be working on our songs a bit before then. I think Jo and I are doing four or five songs each, though it may turn out to be a few more and we are still confirming which ones, but we will both be doing a duet with Jason, and there will be some Christmas-themed stuff. I am very excited about it.”

- by Caroline Ansdell