Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle says, at the beginning of her cabaret show Beneath the Dress, that she will be singing “about the girl I was and the woman I am and al the crazy stuff in between.” Indeed, many of the songs in the show are highly confessional – from the ironic “I Slept with Someone (Who Handled Kurt Cobain’s Intervention)” to Edith Piaf’s poignant “Hymne à l’amour,”
After several strips, the audience does get to see what’s beneath Ruffelle’s dress – a very sexy black slip. And we do get a glimpse of an impish personality and an outsized talent. Ruffelle has a sultry voice, perfect for the deliciously sadistic “Dentist Song” as well as the lyrical “What Now My Love (Et Maintenant).”
She also has lots of energy. Ruffelle prances around 54 Below (254 West 54 Street) and ends up perched on various places on and off the stage. She certainly knows how to cross and uncross those sexy legs.
Beneath the Dress does a lot to create an image of Frances Ruffelle, an image of a naughty girl who has experienced her share of sorrow as well as pleasure. But so much of Ruffelle’s performance is tongue-in-cheek we don’t really know how much of it to believe.
Is Ruffelle the taxi dancer (a paid dance partner) in “Ten Cents a Dance” who laments the hardships of her career? Or is she the hopeful and exuberant lass in “Lucky Day”? At the end of the evening, we may not know who the real Frances Ruffelle is, but we’ve had such a good time we don’t really care.
Ruffelle will perform Beneath the Dress again on Wed, Sep 18 at 9:30pm.