Crazy Coqs, London
The term ‘icon’ is often freely used with little regard for it’s true definition – however from last night’s gig at The Crazy Coqs, Frances Ruffelle clearly merits the title.
The Tony award winner is an acclaimed stage and recording artist who originated the role of Eponine in the legendary Les Miserables (which “On Its Own” might qualify her for icon status), but it’s also her electrifying authenticity that radiates from her in every part of her performance that makes her truly special.
Promoting her new album ‘I Say Yeh Yeh , that coincides with Les Miserables 30th Anniversary, seems like no real coincidence as from the outset the audience were enthralled by Ruffelle singing in perfect French with the accompaniment of a four piece band. She offered a Parisian sensuality in her story telling, which L’un Vers L’Autre the opening number demonstrated eloquently.
As Ruffelle interjected a spoken interlude to describe a lovers' bedroom scene, including crisp bed sheets and clothing scattered around the floor, the first glimmer of her comedic excellence shone through. This contrasted with a hauntingly beautiful duet, Paris Summer, sung at the bar with guest singer Rowan and proving one of the evening’s early highlights, showcasing Ruffelle’s distinctive vocal quality.
Ruffelle’s naturally vivacious personality was so joyfully evident, not only in her witty spoken dialogue, but in her songs. When joined by Gwyneth Herbert who has produced the new album, the two complemented each other perfectly. Their duet of the album’s title track was simply infectious to all who had the pleasure of being in the room, voices blending together effortlessly, along with playful interaction with the band.
The most breathtaking moment of the evening ( and there were many!) was Ruffelle singing Eponine’s On My Own in what can only be described as a homage to the role that catapulted her in to public recognition thirty years ago and a way of interpreting the song to reflect her as a performer and most importantly as a person. Kneeling on the piano, with the double bass hinting at a 1930’s jazz number, Ruffelle put her heart and soul as well as her powerful upper register in to the song, making it sound as fresh as ever,
Her performance will linger in your memory long after leaving the Crazy Coqs. As she says in her concert “Love is rare, life is strange”. What is certain however is that Frances Ruffelle is one of the most gifted and iconic performers that the UK has ever produced.
Frances Ruffelle is in residence until 17th October
Guest reviewer: Francesca Mepham