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Brief Encounter With … Frances Ruffelle

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Frances Ruffelle, Tony Award winner and West End star of Les Miserables and Chicago, has hit the Edinburgh Fringe this summer with her new show Beneath the Dress

Backed by her six-piece band, Ruffelle delivers an intimate evening of glamour and sexy sophistication to audiences with an array of songs, from old standards to new numbers, performed at the Fringe’s most stylish new venue, the Pleasance’s Ghillie-Dhu.

Ruffelle sat down with Joseph Pike before the Fringe to tell us a bit about her Edinburgh show, but we were lucky enough to catch up with her later in her run and ask her about what is coming next. Here's what she said:

Tell us about the inspiration for Beneath the Dress.

Beneath the Dress: Perhaps this is an honest reveal of the true Frankie Ruff! A musical journey that I hope will give people a better insight into the real me! It is certainly more me than anything I’ve ever done. The songs are inspired by people I admire or situations I associate with and women who simply love to entertain.

Why do it now? Is it something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?

It has taken almost a lifetime to accumulate the experiences to create this show.  It has been a little bud growing in my head and keeping me awake at night, now is the time to let it grow!

You’ve had a long and hugely successful career on the stage and in music. What have been your career highlights?

Cameron Mackintosh's phone call to me one Saturday morning telling me I was going to Broadway!  Can I really beat that one? Except winning the Tony too! It was all so unexpected, and so then a week later, in true Frankie Ruff style, I topped all that off with the announcement of the expectation of one of my best productions... my daughter!

I am very lucky and have enjoyed many highlights and mixed them all with bringing up three children, four solo albums and some great stage experiences; one of the best being Roxie Hart in Chicago!

What is it you love about Beneath the Dress compared with your past roles and productions?

Beneath the Dress is created by me and my brother Matthew Ryan (well, we did grow up together!) so how can I not love the opportunity to perform exactly what I feel like and have the chance to perform something that is real?  I’m very immediate and I work on instinct and what comes naturally.  There is no style of music that doesn’t touch me in some way, and I love the opportunity to perform a show in a party atmosphere instead of a theatre and take the audience on a musical rollercoaster. I have a low concentration level and easily get bored so I wanted to create a show that is fast paced and keeps the audience on their toes.

You’ve released a number of albums throughout your career. Is this something you’d like to pursue full time or is it musical theatre that has always been your real passion?

Music in general is my passion and my love of songs with great meanings or stories.  My new album, Imperfectly Me, is a collection of songs I have grown up with and is performed with a 16-piece band and is out in September with a taster EP available to order on iTunes.  All four songs on the EP are in Beneath the Dress.

So Beneath the Dress is really a look back at all the influences from your career. Where do you go from here in the future?

My next show I perform is Songs from a Hotel Bedroom touring before coming in to London at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre. It’s a show using the obscure songs of Kurt Weill and is about a transient love affair between a French cabaret singer (me) and an American composer. But as far as my future... I’ll let that take care of itself!

Frances Ruffelle: Beneath the Dress is at the Pleasance Ghillie Dhu, 4-30 August at 20.15.


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