Tony Winner Frances Ruffelle’s 7 Favorite Theatregoing Experiences

Favorite Things   Tony Winner Frances Ruffelle’s 7 Favorite Theatregoing Experiences
The star of the original London and Broadway productions of Les Miserables recalls the performances of Alan Cumming, Betty Buckley, and more.
Favorite_Things_Frances Ruffelle_HR

British favorite Frances Ruffelle, who created the role of Eponine in the London and Broadway productions of Les Misérables, earning a Tony Award for her work in the New York staging, will return to The Green Room 42 March 24. The big-voiced actor, whose theatrical credits also include Starlight Express, Chicago, Pippin, and Children of Eden, will once again offer her acclaimed solo evening, Frances Ruffelle LIVEs in New York, at the new Manhattan nightspot, where she will wrap her rich, dark alto around songs from Les Miz, The Wild Party, and more. (For tickets visit

We recently asked the actor to pen a list of her favorite theatregoing experiences.

Torch Song

Torch_Song_Second_Stage_Production_Photo_2017_0706r_Mercedes Ruehl, Michael Urie in TORCH SONG, Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017_HR.jpg
Mercedes Ruehl and Michael Urie Joan Marcus

I am totally obsessed with Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, starring Michael Urie and Mercedes Ruehl. I have seen it several times and am so in love with the writing that I bought the script to study. I was wowed by Michael Urie’s portrayal of Arnold, and, indeed, the whole cast are brilliant. Harvey’s writing feels so real and true and so utterly funny. I would love to meet him and have a good old chat. He has inspired me to start writing my own play. Thank you, Harvey.

Original West End Company of Les Miserables

Patti LuPone in the original London <i>Les Miserables</i> (1985)
Patti LuPone in the original London Les Miserables (1985) Michael Le Poer Trench

Of course, I am not talking about myself… I am talking about the first run through in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s rehearsal room. Patti LuPone playing Fantine. I watched it, sat on the floor of the rehearsal room waiting for my next scene. I was a mess, I was so moved by her performance and the incredibly emotional story of Fantine’s life, which she portrayed so heart-wrenchingly. I could barely get myself together to perform my own scenes.


Billie Piper in <i>Yerma</i>
Billie Piper in Yerma

Billie Piper was a student at my mum’s school, The Sylvia Young Theatre School. She became a pop star at the young age of 16. My mum said at the time, “Billie is the most brilliant actor. I hope the world will get to see that side of her.” And, of course, how right was my mum? After her amazing pop career, she delved back into the acting and has had much success. I watched Billie in Yerma at London’s Young Vic. She more than deserved her Olivier Award for that role and is now opening in this new mind-blowing production, again directed by Simon Stone in New York’s Armory. Don’t miss this incredible piece of theatre.

Guys and Dolls

Julia McKenzie and Bob Hoskins in <i>Guys and Dolls </i>at the National Theatre
Julia McKenzie and Bob Hoskins in Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre John Haynes

When I was about 15 years old, I was completely blown away by the National Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls starring the wonderful Julia McKenzie and Bob Hoskins. I saw it ten times. This introduced me to one of the best-written musicals and also to the voice of the beautiful, late Ian Charleson. I was in love with his portrayal of Sky Masterson, and the cry in his voice will live on in my memories.


Alan Cumming and The Kit Kat Girls in Cabaret.
Alan Cumming and The Kit Kat Girls in Cabaret. Joan Marcus

I missed my friend Alan Cumming in the London production of Cabaret, so I made the trip to New York to see him perform it here. Cabaret being one of my favorite movies, he had a lot to live up to. But boy was I knocked out by him and the beautiful, late Natasha Richardson that I returned to see it again the very next night. Alan Cumming is fearless, experimental, and cheeky. These are qualities I have learned bring excitement to performances. I have learned from him, and I believe because of him, I have become so much braver in my own performances, and I hope audiences will agree that it is so much more fun to take risks and take the audience on an amazing adventure.

Betty Buckley in Story Songs at Joe's Pub

Betty Buckley
Betty Buckley Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Betty Buckley is one of the world’s best storytellers and the most compelling, theatrical, and genuine performers. That was evident in her Joe’s Pub performance that I went to last year, and her brilliance kept me holding my breath so I could take in every word she sang.

War Horse

The company of the National Theatre production of <i>War Horse</i>
The company of the National Theatre production of War Horse Paul Kolnik

When I watched War Horse in London on the National Theatre stage, I sat there thinking how lucky I was to see this beautifully creative work and how lucky I am to live in a city that gives me the opportunity to see such unbelievably creative experiences. I’m living in New York now and discovering an equal treasure trove of amazing theatrical experiences.

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