REVIEW: JENNA RUSSELL with SETH RUDETSKY (Leicester Square Theatre) ★★★★

Jenna Russel, the voice behind the Red Dwarf theme tune, first launched her theatrical career as Fantine in Les Misérables in the early 1990s. Following this, success only grew for the Dundee-raised actress, as she then went on to play young Sally in Follies, Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, and won an Olivier Award for her role as Dot in Sunday in the Park with George. Russel also enjoyed several television spots on shows including Born and Bred, Doctor Who and most recently Eastenders.

For such a seasoned theatrical veteran, who brushed shoulders with the likes of Elaine Page and Felicity Kendall, Russel’s authenticity is palpable. In a pally interview with pianist Seth Rudetsky, the actress exclaims her nerves surrounding the performance, swears, shares anecdotes and speaks fondly of her life in the theatre.

The songs, although rawly performed, were few and far between. They focused on the actress’ early work, which felt a tad forgetful of her consistent success in recent years. Urinetown and Fun Home, for example, were unsung and unmentioned and their absence was felt for reinforcing how consistent Russel’s career has remained over decades.

In a beautiful moment coaxed by the song ‘Children and Art’ from Sunday in the Park with George, Russel shares her struggles with getting pregnant during the period she appeared in the show. With this, the atmosphere became instantly tender, punctuated evermore heart-wrenchingly by an adorable ‘I love you, mum’ from her ten year old daughter in the audience. The actress burst into tears and the audience along with her.

This candid affinity with a star is what fans pay for when purchasing a sometimes pricey solo concert ticket. Although ‘One night with…’ set ups can be risky, a casual rapport and emotional vulnerability can go along way with connecting an actress to their loyal audience and certainly conjures up the kind of human connection only theatre can deliver.

Review by Nicole Darvill-Batten


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