West End star inspires Performing Arts students with tales of life on stage

West End star inspires Performing Arts students with tales of life on stage

Award-winning performer Ruthie Henshall, known for her roles in smash hit musicals Billy Elliot and Chicago, has shared the secrets of her success at a special Q&A held at an Ipswich college.

Life isn’t always a cabaret when you’re a musical theatre performer – and even the biggest stars have experienced their fair share of disappointment along the way.

That’s what award-winning performer Ruthie told a group of Ipswich students at an exclusive question and answer session, designed to advise and inspire the next generation of stars.

Ruthie, who made her West End debut in Cats and went on to star in Miss Saigon, Les Misérables and Oliver!, shared the secrets of her success while touching on some of her own greatest disappointments – including being pipped to the post for a starring role as Mary Poppins.

The 51-year-old spoke honestly about her career disappointments, motherhood, striving for perfection and hopes for the future during the hour-long Q&A at the College.

“Life doesn’t end when you don’t get the job you always wanted so don’t take it personally,” she told the students.
“I was up for the role of Mary Poppins and it got down to the wire. They then said ‘they were going another way’ and I was devastated at the time – but then I had my daughter Dolly instead and I look at her everyday and I feel lucky.
“The longer you are in the business, the more you realise that it’s the ‘real life’ stuff that is important.”

Speaking about performers’ hunger for perfection, she said: “You have to learn how to pace yourself especially if you are doing eight shows a week. It’s like being an athlete. You have to warm up your voice and body and look after yourself.

“I also believe that the audience are paying to see this show and most of them are seeing it for the first time - so you have to give it everything and give them a great show.”

Looking ahead to even greater things, Ruthie added:

“There is talk that Nanny McPhee will become a musical and so might Roald Dahl’s The Witches. If that happens, I’d love to think that one of those roles has my name on it.”

Imogen Fraser from the college, said:

“We are so grateful to Ruthie for giving up her time. The students were absolutely thrilled to hear about her experiences. It was an inspirational afternoon.”