Frances Ruffelle

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Frances Ruffelle
Born Frances Jane Ruffell
(1965-08-29) 29 August 1965 (age 49)
Redbridge, Essex, England
Other names Frankie Ruff
Occupation Actress singer
Years active 1975–present
Spouse(s) John Caird (1990–1992; separated)
Family Sylvia Young (mother)
Eliza Doolittle (daughter)
Alison Ruffelle (sister)

Frances Ruffelle (born Frances Jane Ruffell 29 August 1965 in Redbridge, Essex[1]) is an English musical theatre actress and recording artist. She won a Tony Award in 1987 and represented the United Kingdom in the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest.

In 1984, Ruffelle starred as Dinah in the original West End production of Starlight Express. From 1985, she played the role of Éponine in the original English-language production of Les Misérables in the West End and on Broadway, winning the 1987 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Other stage roles include, Yonah in Children of Eden (1991), Roxie Hart in Chicago (2003–2004, 2007), the title role in Piaf (2013) and Bella in The A to Z of Mrs. P (2014).

In 1994, she represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, with the song Lonely Symphony (We Will Be Free), finishing 10th. The song reached the UK top 30. Her albums include Fragile (1994), Frances Ruffelle (1998), Showgirl (2004) and Imperfectly Me (2010).

Ruffelle appeared in the 2012 film version of Les Misérables. Other screen credits include Secrets & Lies (1996) and Devil's Tower (2013). She has also performed one woman shows, Paris Original and Beneath the Dress, in London and New York.

Career[edit]

Ruffelle made her acting debut in Jack Rosenthal's TV Film P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang in 1982. Ruffelle's first West End appearance was as Louisa in Terence Rattigan's The Sleeping Prince. In 1984, she took on the principal role of Dinah in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express in the original London cast. A year later, she had left Starlight and joined the original London cast of Les Misérables as Éponine. Though virtually an unknown outside of the West End, she and Colm Wilkinson were invited to reprise their roles for the Broadway launch. Ruffelle won multiple awards (including the Tony) for her role. She returned to the role she originated in 1997 in the West End of London. Her subsequent work on stage included the Ian Dury musical Apples in 1989 and Stephen Schwartz's Children of Eden in 1990, featuring on the cast albums of both. She has also starred as the female lead Roxie Hart in Chicago, as well as appearing in Lucky Stiff,

The creative team behind Les Misérables, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, also used Ruffelle's vocals as Kim while writing Miss Saigon.She also workshopped Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard and Whistle Down the Wind.

Ruffelle, who previously played Roxie Hart in Chicago in the West End from September 2003 to June 2004, reprised the role for the show's 10th anniversary in 2007 and stayed with the production through into 2008. Her return to Chicago marked the first time she has performed in the show in the Cambridge Theatre, having only appeared in it when it was on at the Adelphi Theatre.

Ruffelle was set to appear in a revival of the Sherman Brothers musical Over Here! in January 2007, alongside Donna McKechnie, Diane Langton and Richard Fleeshman, however it was postponed, and was scheduled to open in Toronto in 2009.

In 2006 she performed in a musical based on the works of Stephen Schwartz, Schwartz Stories. In March 2008 she commenced a limited five-week season in the musical, Make Me A Song. She played the title role in Mathilde at the Edinburgh festival in 2008.

Ruffelle has also gained success on the screen – in both film and TV. Her film credits include Devil's Tower, Long Forgotten Fields, Les Misérables, 'The Wildcats of St Trinians', Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies, The Invitation, The Road to Ithaca, and Ptang Yang Kipperbang.

Ruffelle appeared as series regular Dawn Daniel-Spears in Sky's Dream Team, and series regular Kitty in Headless, for which she also composed the music.

Other television credits include playing Olivia in Warner Bros' New Adventures of Robin Hood, Denise in Alan Bennett's Objects of Affection for the BBC and Susan in SWALK for Thames Television. She has starred in The Bill (Thames Television), Strangers (ITV), The Equaliser (Universal) and The Hard Word (Thames Television).

In 1994, Ruffelle was chosen to represent the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest. She sang all eight (8) songs at the pre-selection, and British televoters chose "Lonely Symphony" to represent the UK, by televoting. It went on to come in 10th at the contest in Dublin. When asked about her motivations for joining the competition, she jokingly replied that since none of the four constituent nations of the UK (Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland) had qualified for that year's football World Cup finals, it was her responsibility to try to restore some national pride.

In 2010, she appeared in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables at the O2 Arena as part of the original London cast and in 2011 starred as meddling Essex mother Fastrada at the Menier Theatre's production of Pippin.

She opened in the title role of Piaf in Pam Gem's Piaf in February 2013 and received a UK Theatre award nomination for Best Actor and in 2014 created the role of Bella in The A-Z of Mrs P at Southwark Playhouse. Frances also performs her critically acclaimed solo shows, Paris Original and Beneath the Dress, in London and New York.

Theatre credits[edit]

  • 2014: Bella, The A-Z of Mrs P, Southwark Playhouse
  • 2013: Piaf, Pam Gem's PIAF, Leicester Curve Theatre
  • 2011 Fastrada, PIPPIN, Menier Chocolate Factory, Mitch Sebastian
  • 2010 Angelique Picard, SONGS FROM A HOTEL BEDROOM, Linbury Studio ROH/Tour, Kate Flatt
  • 2010 One Woman Show, BENEATH THE DRESS, Edinburgh Festival 2010/London, Paul Baker
  • 2008 MATHILDE, George Square, Edinburgh, Simon Callow
  • 2008 MAKE ME A SONG: THE MUSIC OF WILLIAM FINN, New Players Theatre, Andrew McBean
  • 2007 Roxie Hart, CHICAGO, Adelphi Theatre, Walter Bobbie
  • Betty Shaefer, SUNSET BOULEVARD, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sydmonton Festival
  • Candy, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sydmonton Festival
  • Annabel, LUCKY STIFF, Bridewell Theatre, Steven Dexter
  • Candy, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND, Sydmonton Festival, Gail Edwards
  • Delilah, APPLES, Royal Court Theatre, Simon Curtis
  • Eponine, LES MISERABLES, Royal Shakespeare Co/Broadway, John Caird/Trevor Nunn – Tony Award, Theatre World Award, Helen Hayes Award and Outer Critics Circle Award
  • Yonah, CHILDREN OF EDEN, Upstart – West End, John Caird
  • Dinah, STARLIGHT EXPRESS, Really Useful Theatre Company, Trevor Nunn
  • Princess Louisa, THE SLEEPING PRINCE, Theatre Royal Haymarket, Peter Coe
  • Narrator, JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, National Tour, Bill Kenwright

Film credits[edit]

  • 2013 Sue, LONG FORGOTTEN FIELDS, Wildgrass films, Jon Stanford
  • 2012 DEVIL'S TOWER, Hawthorn Productions, Owen Tooth
  • 2012 Whore, Les Misérables, Working Title Films, Tom Hooper
  • Zeze, THE INVITATION, Cork Films, James Erskine
  • Eleni, THE ROAD TO ITHACA, Underground Films, Costas Demetriou
  • Angela, SECRET & LIES, C4 Films, Mike Leigh
  • Eunice, P'TANG YANG KIPPERBANG, Enigma Films, Michael Apted
  • Angela Hall / Roxanne, THE WILDCATS OF ST TRINIANS, Frank Launder

Television credits[edit]

  • Dawn Daniel-Spears, DREAM TEAM (REGULAR), Hewland, Various
  • Kitty, HEADLESS (SERIES REGULAR), Sanctuary Films, Tony McHale
  • Olivia, NEW ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, Warner Brothers, Various
  • Susan Gilbert, THE BILL, Thames Television, Michael Simpson
  • Denise, OBJECTS OF AFFECTION, BBC Television, Alan Bennett
  • Elsie, STRANGERS, ITV, Ben Bolt
  • Susan, S.W.A.L.K, Thames Television, Richard Bramall
  • Sylvie, THE EQUALISER, CBS/Universal, Mark Sobel
  • Mandy, THE HARD WORD, Thames Television, Michael Simpson

Radio[edit]

  • 2009, Guest Soloist, FRIDAY NIGHT IS MUSIC NIGHT (JUDY GARLAND SPECIAL), BBC Radio 2
  • 1996, Mary in Jesus Chris Superstar in Concert BBC Radio 2

Albums[edit]

"Lonely Symphony" was released as a single in the UK, as well as in other countries, and also appeared on her first solo album, Fragile. It reached number 25 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1994.[2]

Ruffelle's second album, Frances Ruffelle, came out in 1998, on the small Dress Circle label. It was a change in direction, featuring stripped-down arrangements of mostly musical theatre songs, as well as a couple of classics, original songs and covers. In 2004, she released Showgirl on her own label, a return to fuller arrangements, but far from a pop sound. Ruffelle also collaborated with Sam Bonner in the group, paTala, making an album called Purify, featuring "a fusion of traditional Sanskrit chants with unique arrangements of contemporary Western beats". A new solo album, Imperfectly Me, was released in September 2010.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Ruffelle was born in Redbridge, Essex. Her father is a phone company engineer and manager.[4] Her mother is Sylvia Young, the founder of the famous theatre school at which Frances trained, and her daughter is recording artist Eliza Doolittle.

Frances married Trevor Nunn's co-director, John Caird.

Discography[edit]

Cast Recordings[edit]

Other album appearances[edit]

  • Back of My Mind (Christopher Cross album) (1988) includes "I Will (Take You Forever)" duet
  • Michael Crawford Performs Andrew Lloyd Webber (1991) includes "Only You" duet
  • Save the Children: A Christmas Spectacular of Carols and Songs (1992) sings "I Watch You Sleeping", and featured on "Save the Children"
  • Corps & Armes (Etienne Daho album) (2000) – includes "Le Brasier", co-written by Daho/Ruffelle/Helen Turner; also released as a single
  • The Definitive Christopher Cross (2001) includes "I Will (Take You Forever)" (new mix)

Solo albums[edit]

  • Fragile (1994)
  • Frances Ruffelle (1998)
  • Showgirl (2004)
  • Purify (2005) as paTala with Sam Bonner
  • Imperfectly Me (2010)

Singles[edit]

  • "He's My Hero" (1986)
  • "On My Own" (rerecorded single version) (1985) from Les Misérables
  • "On My Own" (second rerecorded single version) (1987) from Les Misérables
  • "I Will (Take You Forever)" (1988) duet with Christopher Cross from Back of My Mind – US Adult Contemporary Chart No. 41
  • "Stranger to the Rain" (rerecorded single version) (1990) from Children of Eden
  • "Love Parade" (1994)
  • "Lonely Symphony (We Will Be Free)" (1994) UK Eurovision Song Contest entry
  • "Lose Your Illusions" (1994)
  • "God Watch over You" (1995)
  • "Jennifer's Garden" (1997) Denmark-only
  • "Blue Eyes" (1997) Germany-only
  • "If a Wish came True" (1998) Netherlands-only
  • "Smile" (2004)

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sonia
with "Better the Devil You Know"
UK in the Eurovision Song Contest
1994
Succeeded by
Love City Groove
with "Love City Groove"