I have been very fortunate to see the talented Jenna Russell in several productions on stage and screen, but on Sunday afternoon I was very lucky to see an intimate afternoon with Jenna hosted by British music journalist Edward Seckerson as part of his “Singular Sensations” at The Charing Cross Theatre, London.
I went to Edward’s “Singular Sensation” event with Kerry Ellis last year and it was great to see a performer talk about the things they do not normally in interviews and then singing some of their favourite songs from their career or some songs you may have not heard before. The afternoon with Jenna did not disappoint.
Jenna opened the show with “Hurry! It’s Lovely up Here!” from ‘On a clear day you can see forever’ a show in which Jenna played Daisy in 2000. Edward started the afternoon with questions about Jenna’s childhood; she was born in London but raised in Dundee and she had a variety of music influences she had as a child, from punk to musical numbers, and we heard about how her mother had her young (17) and took her to see the greats such as Liza Minnelli.
We heard stories about the different shows Jenna had been in and how her career started at the Sylvia Young Theatre School where she became interested in the music of Stephen Sondheim, which would become a huge part of her career with shows such as “Follies”, “Into the woods” and “Merrily we roll along”.
The audience were treated to several musical numbers and some very emotional personal tales about her struggles to have a child with her equally lovely partner Ray Coulthard (Hotel Babylon and work for The Royal National Theatre etc.) and how her role in the great Olivier award winning musical “Sunday in the park with George” had even more meaning with the song “Children and art”. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the theatre as Jenna sang the song after we had been told her personal story of pursuing IVF treatment, it was a very moving song to hear.
Jenna is a lovely person to listen to when telling tales such as meeting Patti Lupone when Jenna was 17 and then again at the Tony Awards. Watching the nominations on screen backstage, both ladies were nominated together and Patti shouting “I’m next” when her co-star Boyd Gaines won a Tony! It was mesmerising hearing about the time Jenna worked with the legendary Eartha Kitt on Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies”. Jenna re-enacted Eartha on stage and brought hoards of laughter and clapping to the room as she told tales of Eartha’s dressing room complete with aviary!
Jenna will be seen next at St James Theatre UK Premiere of “Urinetown” – yes you read that right! – a musical set in a city of the future that has been afflicted with a terrible drought. Jenna treated us to a number from the musical where she plays the glamorous role of toilet attendant! After hearing her belt out “It’s a Privilege to Pee” I have already booked my ticket this morning!
I have always admired the way Jenna acts the songs and really connects to the lyrics, and hearing her in an intimate afternoon was divine. I will continue to enjoy Jenna’s performances and I suggest if you have not seen her, check out The Digital Theatre’s download of “Into the woods” as you can get a great idea of her talent. I applaud Jenna for her raw and touching answers and Edward for another great “Singular Sensation” afternoon. I highly recommend booking a ticket as some big names are going to be announced soon.
Charing Cross Theatre
London WC2N 6NL