Tuesday, April 23

Spotlight on Jenna Russell

Olivier Award winner Jenna Russell is due to take to the stage at Cadogan Hall in her first large scale solo show in a few days’ time. We were interested to hear how Jenna is preparing for her new adventure.

Follow this link to book tickets to the show at Cadogan Hall on the 7th November 2021 at 6.30pm – https://cadoganhall.com/whats-on/jenna-russell-live-in-concert-2021/

With such a large repertoire to choose from, how have you selected the songs for the show?

I absolutely wanted to have some songs from shows that I have been in and love singing, and songs that have shaped my career, but I also wanted to bring in some comedy because I always think that a really good evening consists of you laughing and hopefully having a little emotional moment at the same time. I’ve really tried hard to incorporate some comedy songs that I’ve known and loved, some are to do with shows I’ve been in, and some are quite dramatic!

Is there a chance for you to share any anecdotes or reasons for your show selections during the evening?

Yes, absolutely! 90% of the songs are intrinsically part of my life – songs that I’ve grown up with, songs that I’ve had the great opportunity to do on stage in the actual shows that they’re from and I will be sharing stories and anecdotes certainly.

As a performer, most of your roles have been as part of an ensemble cast, how does it feel to be stepping out solo?

Terrifying! Absolutely terrifying but also kind of exciting. I say that as I sit here trying to learn words and feeling like it’s an impossible mountain to climb but of course one does climb the mountain. I know I’m going to have a great time doing it, but I am terrified of being out there on my own.

You’re supported by musical director Nigel Lilley; how much has he been involved in the planning of this show?

Enormously. Nigel and I have known each other for many years, and we have worked together a few times, but we are more importantly, very good friends. He has a fantastic knowledge of music and perfectly understands the tempo of the show – like where it is good to have a funny moment or a sad song. He understands the flavour of the evening, so he has been enormously important in the planning of the show with me. It’s been quite hard as he has been away in New York, but we have been trying to get ideas together over WhatsApp.

These occasions are generally a chance to get glammed up and dig out the sequins, are you normally a person who enjoys a posh frock or do you feel more at home wearing jeans and a t-shirt?

Every now and then I buy a posh frock, but I hate wearing them! I am definitely a jeans and t-shirt person. If I could come out on stage wearing my jeans and t-shirt I would but sadly I can’t! I’ve found something to wear that I still feel like myself in, so I’m thrilled with that. I will be comfy on the stage and still feel like me.

Throughout your career you have diversified between tv, radio, film, and theatre. You have worked predominantly in theatre, is this where you feel most at home?

Absolutely, I love theatre. I love rehearsing, being part of a company, I love crafting a story together as a group and putting it in front of an audience and then finding out what bits work, what bits don’t and them honing those, so we are all on a collective journey together. The only place you can really do that is in theatre. I am a theatre girl through and through. This past couple of years have been awful for that sector and it’s broken my heart, but we are on the mend and hopefully things will be back to normal-ish soon.

Do you tend to be drawn to roles that are a little more light-hearted or are you happy to wade into the more dramatic roles?

Both! If I can find comedy in anything, I guess it goes back to the first questions, I will find it because I do think that in any situation we laugh and we cry. You can have really dramatic moments in life and one moment be crying and also laughing. The great tragedies have comedy in them, and the great comedies have tragedy in them and that is the beauty of good writing. If I find a part that has both, I will grab it with both hands.

What has been the most challenging role that you have taken on in your career so far?

I just did Piaf, that was really hard because I don’t speak any French and I found it really difficult learning the French. All roles are challenging, they all have their own challenges. Doing Bridges of Madison County was a challenge because she was a soprano and she was hyper feminine which is not something that sits naturally with me, but I loved playing her. Once Trevor Nunn and I had found her language it was great fun playing her. Guys and Dolls was a great challenge as I’m a terrible dancer! However, again, Rob Ashford, Matt Cole and I found a way of working with the choreography and it turned into something really funny! I also think that the higher the challenge the greater the reward, so I kind of always look for things that terrify me slightly, hence me doing this one woman show at the Cadogan Hall!


Jenna Russell is an Olivier-Award-winning and Tony-Award-nominated actress. Her recent theatre credits include ‘Piaf’ in “Piaf” at the Nottingham Playhouse and Leeds Playhouse and “Celebrating Sondheim” at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Jenna’s other notable theatrical performances include ‘Sarah Brown’ in “Guys and Dolls” at the Piccadilly Theatre, ‘Dot’ in “Sunday In The Park With George” at the Wyndham’s Theatre and ‘Helen’ in “Fun Home” at the Young Vic. Her television appearances include the BBC’s “Born and Bred”, “Call the Midwife”, “Death in Paradise” and “EastEnders” and ITV’s “Midsomer Murders” and “Home To Roost” as well as being the performer of the theme tune to the sit-com “Red Dwarf”.