BWW Review: FRANCES RUFFELLE LIVE(S) IN NEW YORK Is Unapologetically Original at The Green Room 42
The world of show business is filled with good actors, great actors, actors who show up and give a performance that makes you feel things. There are good actors, and great actors - and there are stars. Make no mistake, Frances Ruffelle is a great actor, but Frances Ruffelle is also a star. When Frances Ruffelle sets foot on a stage, you know something extraordinary is about to happen. You can prepare yourself for a ride unlike any on which you have, previously, ridden. If Frances Ruffelle is the entertainer for your evening, you can prepare yourself for anything, but you will still be surprised. That is because Frances Ruffelle is a star.
With her show Frances Ruffelle Live(s) In New York, Ms. Ruffelle presents an unabashed look at what it is to be an original. This uncompromising piece of theater is as unique and individual as the woman who created it (with Gwyneth Herbert), allowing the audience a little over an hour to turn their minds off, relax, and just be taken on a journey that doesn't pander, one that demands the attention of an intelligent and sophisticated audience with senses of humor and adventure, and perhaps a bit of naughty, bawdy, whimsy. This evening of theater has been designed to stun, surprise and make you feel alive.
Frances Ruffelle has been in residency at the Midtown Manhattan cabaret nightclub The Green Room 42 for the year; and although Broadwayworld has offered an interview with Ms. Ruffelle, as well as numerous gorgeous photo flashes, there was never a review written of the play (you read that right - Play). Never having been accused of being a stupid man, when I was brought on board to cover the cabaret scene of NYC, I had my eye, firmly, on this prize because I know that which many have yet to learn: you don't say no to Frances Ruffelle. My press seats in place, I arrived at The Green Room 42 with every expectation of an interesting and entertaining night. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw...
Absolutely none of which I will be describing for you in this article.
Frances Ruffelle Live(s) in New York defies description. It is equal parts performance art, three-ring circus, 60's Beat coffee house performance, and Museum of Sex exhibit. Ms. Ruffelle may speak to the audience, but no mere cabaret patter does she deliver: her conversation with her followers and fans is as fascinating and mesmerizing as she is. With an exceptional band lead by Jude Obermuller (piano), and featuring Peter Brendler (bass), Tim Basom (guitar) and Dustin Kaufman (drums), Ruffelle launches into her show with no introduction and takes you on a journey that strays, defiantly, from the normal structure of a cabaret show, allowing her carte blanche to perform parts of the show in some very unexpected places throughout the evening (the lighting designer for the show must have had a gay old time), showcasing physical and vocal acts of daring-do, designed to thrill, chill and kill with kindness. While Ms. Ruffelle's emotional gamut is extensive, what audiences can count on seeing most throughout the evening is in ampish humor that insists you follow it into every corner of your being, and while you may sigh or cry with the outpouring of dramatic expression, most of your evening will be spent smiling at the audacity on display as she curls up atop the piano, wraps her arms around herself and her audience and tells you it's ok to have fun, to not take life so seriously and to adore her.
And adore her, you will.
For those who could not fathom the purchase of a ticket without some inkling as to what they will see, here are a few breadcrumbs to lead you to Frances Ruffelle's door: During the play, you might hear a song once sung by Barbra Streisand, Cher, Doris Day, Edith Piaf or Judy Garland. You might hear material written by Hurricane Ruffelle herself. You might hear some of the French language expertly spoken or sung. You might see surprise guests artists sprout up for a vignette and duet, and you might find yourself singing along with a Tony award winner.
What you will not find at Frances Ruffelle Live(s) in New York is anything by rote, boring, simple or ordinary. What you will not find at Frances Ruffelle Live(is) in New York is anything that you will ever forget.
The only thing you will find at Frances Ruffelle Live(s) in New York is art, heart, laughter, love and an unmitigated passion for eating life.
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Photos by Stephen Mosher