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Musical Legend Henshall Is Puttin' On The Ritz
Stealing the words of Cole Porter, when it comes to musical theatre, actress Ruthie Henshall is the top, she's the Coliseum. If there's a memorable female all-singing and dancing role in the West End, the 49-year-old multi-award winning star has probably played it.
West End musical star Ruthie Henshall performs in That's Entertainment
So, when it comes to a show about the smash hit songs of the stage and golden era of 1940's-50's Hollywood, the pull of having Henshall performing at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre is huge.
That's Entertainment features some of the most legendary songs from the shows by composers like George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Rogers and Hammerstein and gets things going with an apt opening number of song That's Entertainment from musical The Band Wagon.
There's a small talented cast of "triple threat" performers (who can act, dance and sing) that keep the show bubbling along with glamorous sparkling costumes and tap-dancing routines from some of the most iconic musicals. Routines to songs like Puttin' On The Ritz, On The Street Where You Live, Good Morning and Luck Be A Lady.
The glamour of Hollywood's golden years in That's Entertainment
You think they are good but then Ruthie Henshall comes out to sing All That Jazz from Chicago and leaves everyone else in the shade. Her voice is impeccable with the clear articulation that comes from being such a seasoned professional.
It's nothing new to Henshall - a five-time Olivier Award nominee - who starred in Chicago as Roxie Hart, but she's also played leading roles in renowned shows like Cats, Miss Saigon, Crazy For You and Les Misérables over the past 30 years.
When she did clinch the Olivier Award for Best Actress in 1995, it was for a lesser-known role as Amalia Balash in the London revival of She Loves Me.
Costumes galore for big musical numbers
Warm and personable, she regales tales of her family, life on the stage and enviable experiences of working closely with greats like Mickey Rooney.
She also makes easy work of some of the most vocally difficult pieces, like The Man That Got Away, made famous by Judy Garland in a A Star Is Born, and Some People from Gypsy.
There's no time to catch your breath between her stints on stage though as the worthy supporting cast are back offering celebrations for musicals like South Pacific and Carousel.
The only section that seemed to not quite fit as well was the Cockney Knees Up honouring London's Pearly Kings and Queens with songs like I've Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts and Knees Up Mother Brown. There's some bright, cheery costumes and it is fun but with the vast alternatives on offer from songbooks, it seemed a quirky choice aimed at an older crowd.
Songs from famous musicals keep the audience tapping their toes
The slightly shorter Second Act poured on the old school glamour with music from Gershwin, Duke Ellington and songs synonymous with the Rat Pack. The emphasis moved towards the dance in this half and there were some fantastic tap routines to bring the show to a smile-raising conclusion.
That's Entertainment is a fast-moving, slick production that is best summed up as a best of musicals, taking the audience on a cheerful and satisfying song and dance ride through the most famous routines of the most-loved shows. It leaves you with no other choice but to get happy.
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
July 19 - 23, 2016
Tickets are available by calling 0844 871 3011 or from the theatre website.