Frankie & Beausy ★★★★

Frankie & Beausy is a cabaret show with a twist from West End and Broadway’s musical couple, Frances Ruffelle & Norman Bowman

The Frankie of Frankie & Beausy is Frances Ruffelle. Ruffelle has become a renowned star of London’s West End and on Broadway. She was the original Eponine in ‘Les Miserables’ on either side of the Atlantic; her performance earning her a  coveted Tony Award. She dazzled in roles like Roxy in’ Chicago’, Queenie in ‘The Wild Party”, Piaf in Pam Gem’s ‘Piaf’ and The Recs’ favourite, Bella in ‘The A to Z of Mrs P’.

The Beausy of Frankie & Beausy is Norman Bowman. Bowman is a Scottish singer and singer. He has played Marius in ‘Les Miserable’, Danny in ‘Grease’, Tony in ‘West Side Story’ and Sky in ‘Guys & Dolls. 

Photos by Debbi Clark

Frankie & Beausy deploys songs to frame a narrative, in this case the meeting, love affair, marriage, separation and reuniting of Frankie and Beausy, all in the space of one hour. The show uses classic well-known and not so well-known songs to follow the rollercoaster emotional journey, as the pair fall in and out of love with all that goes in-between.

The show opens with a reworked upbeat Jazz version of the Doodle Song, originally recorded by Frankie Miller in the 70s and later covered by none other than that iconic Scottish duo The Proclaimers, but more of them later. The song showcases the carefree flirtatious nature of the couple, as they first meet at a Scottish railway station. It also sets the tone for what’s to come and highlights that this isn’t a show which is just going to knock out the usual cabaret standards.

The song choices have all been carefully curated and sometimes rearranged to fit the simple yet entertaining narrative.

Songs range from Elvis Costello’s 2017 film track You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way, which offers  a tender moment during their courtship. One particularly entertaining moment is a version of Dusty Springfield’s Spooky, which sees Frankie throwing some shapes in a club, before drinking too much and being sick right before Beausy proposes. There is also a version of Beausy,  Where’s Your Troosers, an adaption of Andy Stewart’s 1960s comic song, which Beausy sings with gusto whist cheekily swishing around in his kilt.

Country House from Sodium’s Follies, is character driven and poignant, the lyrics perfectly portraying the stage of their relationship where indifference and passive aggression has taken hold.

Other highlights are Cole Porter’s beautiful It’s All Right with Me, sung off stage at the bar with their backs to the audience. That hoary cabaret perennial The Man That Got Away, arranged in a minor key which adds a interesting twist to this classic torch song, preventing it from becoming a Judy Garland pastiche. Ruffelle’s husky voice delights as the song mirrors the character’s regret for her relationship choices.

The story ends with the rekindling of their relationship and the joyous moment is celebrated with a raucous take on The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).  Frustratingly, this is the only song of the whole evening that’s feels entirely out of place against the superb choices of the previous songs with their rich jazz arrangements and only seems to be there as a none-too-subtle crowd pleaser. Although carrying on the Scottish theme, it feels as if the audience couldn’t be trusted to leave on a high without a Mamma Mia-style singalong.

Ruffelle and Norman are superbly adept in their portrayal of Frankie and Beausy, both utilising their extensive musical theatre experience to great and subtle effect. Their voices blend well together during the duets and it’s clear that they are having a blast working together, especially when things don’t quite go to plan.

The talented band of three led by musical director on piano Ryan McKenzie, with Kate Shortt on cello and Nick Anderson on drums are the perfect accompaniment for the eclectic and often quirky songs arranged also by Ryan McKenzie.

An enjoyable and amusingly idiosyncratic evening which showcases a fascinating variety of songs, along with the brilliant vocal talents of both Ruffelle and Norman.

Frankie & Beausy make sweet music together – ★★★★ 4 stars