Ruthie Part 3: Family life

Today brings part three of our series charting the remarkable story of Suffolk star Ruthie Henshall, now living in New York.JAMES MARSTON flew to the Big Apple to meet a woman whose career has always come first.

Today brings part three of our series charting the remarkable story of Suffolk star Ruthie Henshall, now living in New York.

JAMES MARSTON flew to the Big Apple to meet a woman whose career has always come first. But in an exclusive interview Ruthie opens up about the biggest role of her life yet as a wife and mother - and how the family's garden is now Central Park!

AS I walked in to the ninth floor apartment, a stone's throw from New York's famous Central Park, I was met by a scene of domestic bliss.

Toys lie scattered on the floor as Ruthie Henshall fixes her daughters something to drink, and her husband Tim Howar emerges from the shower.

It is 11am and a little bit past one-year-old Dolly's nap time. She is getting a little grizzly.

This family setting seems a million miles away from the glamour of show business. Once the greasepaint has been wiped away, theirs is a normal family, enjoying normal family life.

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Ruthie chats away amid the toddler chatter.

She said: “I always knew I'd have children. The career is wonderful but there was always this itch that I couldn't scratch. When I had Lily it was like I had been plugged into life.

“I am completely fulfilled now. It is fantastic,” she said.

Before they had children the couple, who married in September 2004, lived an urban based life that revolved around the world of the theatre.

“We lived in London. We would get up about 11am or midday and go to bed at 3 or 4am. We slept a lot but now we have no sleep,” she said.

Ambition to succeed and determination to be the best were always at the forefront of Ruthie Henshall's mind. For years she was single-minded about her career and focused on the next move, the next break and the next show.

Today she is a changed woman. Her daughters, her husband, her job as a wife and mother have brought her happiness and a contentment far beyond any standing ovation. The decision to uproot from their Manningtree home was one Ruthie, 39, and her husband Tim Howar took very seriously.

Ruthie said: “Tim moved here to play the lead in Rent. He moved over about two months ago and we followed about six weeks later.

“The children aren't at school yet, and we thought moving to New York would be possible. We thought to ourselves let's do it, let's have a bit of an adventure.”

So the couple packed their bags. But living in the fast-paced, melting pot of New York city is not easy with young children and Ruthie has met with her share of problems.

She said: “We both love New York and the children have really taken to it. It's immediate and it moves at a hell of a pace all the time.

“But as a parent living here has been a strange experience. I find New York completely rude, as a parent. I have been told off so many times since I have got here.

“We have been told in a restaurant that we took the children to that “it is not a playground”. I have been shouted at when I was crossing the road because I wasn't quick enough.

“New York is a great place if you're single and working. It's not a place for pushchairs. You can't use the subway at all.”

The infamous American gun culture has also shocked Ruthie. She told a story of how a small boy mimed a gun, with his hand up against three-year-old Lily's head while out walking in Central Park.

Ruthie said: “It was the way he did it that really shocked me. It wasn't like he was playing. He was only about four and it really frightened me. You just don't get that in England.”

They have employed a nanny, called Maria from Portugal, to help out with the children.

Ruthie said: “We employed her so Tim and I can spend time together sometimes. Because Tim works at night, I am often in bed when he comes home we are like ships that pass in the night. You have to be careful to make time for each other.”

The couple often visit the cinema, and watch friends and colleagues performing at the theatre.

Canadian-born Tim said: “You have to work at a relationship, and if we are sour with each other it doesn't set a good example to our children.”

The couple admit they miss their English home. Tim said: “I miss our garden; we planted trees for the children to play in as they grow up. I miss the countryside and the people.”

Ruthie, whose family live in Suffolk, said it was difficult to leave them behind.

She added: “We miss Manningtree like mad. We have lovely neighbours here though and we are getting to know them. “Our children's god parents live nearby here which is really nice for us. It's great to have someone who understands our lives and our situation.

“I think it has been hard for my parents. My father liked popping in and we have taken away his grandchildren. It has been a wrench for them but they are going to visit us.”

See tomorrow's Evening Star to find out more about Ruthie's husband Tim Howar. IN an exclusive interview with the Broadway star James Marston talks to Tim about his latest role, his meeting with Ruthie, his life, his ambitions and his views on fatherhood.

“I'M not militant about it but children need fresh air and exercise,” Ruthie said as her family arrive in New York's famous park.

As they stroll past the towering trees and the spring sunshine beat down, I ask her about the benefits of living next to 843 acres of open space. The family visits the park most days.

Ruthie said: “I said from the beginning that I wanted to live near Central Park. We use it as our garden. It's peaceful and it's great for the children.

“Toddlers need to get out they are up for it and full of energy all the time.”

Apart from Central Park - complete with sand pit and several children's play areas - the family are regulars at New York's Museum of Natural History.

She said: “We had 26 inches of snow when we first came here and it was too cold to go outside. It was frustrating. In New York you have to be creative as a parent, and think of things to do.

“It is harder than it is in Suffolk, New York is a bit more of a challenge.”

Central Park makes up six per cent of Manhattan's total area, including 150 acres in seven bodies of water, 250 acres of lawns and 136 acres of woodland.

Ruthie and husband Tim are fortunate to live in the centre of New York, because Manhattan is a notoriously expensive place to live.

Ruthie said: “It costs so much to live here you have to be either rich or working. We meet lots of nannies in the park because everyone is working all the time.

“We are renting this place from a friend, so we have been lucky really. I don't find New York a dangerous place, but it is a comfort to know no one can get past the doormen downstairs to our apartment.”

The cost of healthcare is another financial concern. America lacks a National Health Service and

Ruthie said: “Both my children were born in Ipswich Hospital and it is not until you don't have the NHS that you miss it. We might complain about it, but we do take it for granted,

“I was ill when I first got over here and I had a throat infection. It cost me $250 - about £120 - just for a prescription. I feel we are really fortunate in the UK. We have full care available to us.”

Tim added: “Medical cover costs us about $6,000 a year. It is a lot of money.”

Name: Valentine Ruth Henshall

Born: March 7 , 1967 in Bromley , Kent.

Ruthie wanted to be a ballet dancer originally.

In 1998, she headed to America to establish a career on Broadway. She won a leading role on Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, then starred as Velma Kelly in Chicago, and later in Miss Saigon and Putting It Together.

She returned to the UK in 2001 to return to the West End stage starring in Peggy Sue Got Married.

Songs from the Stars tv series earlier this year was her foray into tv.

She married actor Tim Howar in September 2004 , and they have two children.

Until moving to New York this year, the family lived in Manningtree.

James Marston's visit was in association with Thomson.

Thomson America & Canada offers short breaks to the four-star art-deco Millennium Broadway in New York. Prices start from £445 per person for 3 nights' room only including flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow. Call 0870 403 0651 or see www.thomson.co.uk

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