Kerry Ellis is hailed as the Queen of the West End having had lead roles in London and on Broadway. She has also achieved chart-topping success as a recording artist. About to embark on a tour she has just released a brand new studio album featuring songs she performed at her London Palladium concert and will be singing again on tour.
Kerry originated the role of Meat, in Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ and was the first British Elphaba in the West End smash ‘Wicked’, for which she won the 2008 Whatsonstage.com Award for ‘Best Takeover in a Role’. She then immediately transferred to Broadway and played Elphaba at the Gershwin Theatre for 6 months, where she won the Broadway.com Audience Award for Favourite Female Breakthrough Performance. Kerry has recently returned to the role that made her famous in Wicked for a strictly limited run in London. Her many other leading role credits include Nancy in Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Ellen in Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Miserablés.
Kerry is performing her new touring show at the ‘Capitol in Horsham’ on the Saturday 4th October for one night only.
I caught up with her to talk about her career.
Your tour starts next week, are you excited?
Oh yes, this is the first tour that I have done on my own, I been touring with Brian May for the last 3 years on and off. I have done one-off shows up and down the country but never a full tour on my own. I am very excited and it is nice to be going to places that I haven’t been to before and play some really nice intimate venues. Yes really excited.
You’ve sung at the London Palladium, the Royal Albert Hall and other huge venues. This will be completely different won’t it?
It is yes, I did a one-woman show last year at the London Palladium which again was going to be a one-off thing. I had always wanted to perform there and we got such a great response from the show that we made an album that has literally come out this week and from that people said that I really ought to do a tour. I thought that it was a great opportunity to then take the album and a version of the Palladium show round to local towns and play some venues that I haven’t played before.
Have you been to Horsham before?
I have actually, but I can’t recall if I have played at the Capitol. Brian and I covered so much ground that it all gets a bit confusing as to where I have played.
There are a lot of showtunes on your new album, how do you choose which songs to use?
Ironically I have never actually done a showtunes album although I have sung some on other people’s albums. Brian has always produced my previous work and we have always gone away from them and sang other songs. I had always been performing in shows so I wanted to do something different.
Since I have been touring for the last 3 years and not been in any shows I thought maybe it is a good time to put all those songs that have been part of my life onto an album.
There are a lot of showtunes on there but there are a lot of other songs as well. There is a cover of ‘Let it go’, there’s also ‘Alfie’ because I had a son 11months ago who’s name is Alfie.
It’s more of a celebration of my career and life really. And because it is produced through Pledge, which is essentially a crowd funding project it felt wonderful that people could have a say in what I sang. People felt part of the album and the choices that I made along the way
There is quite a bit to celebrate in your career, you are going from strength to strength, what would you say was your biggest break?
I don’t know, I still feel that I have got so much to do. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I do, have a career doing a job that I love doing. I am also very lucky in that I get to do a variety of things. I haven’t been pigeonholed into doing just one style of entertainment. I get to do musicals, albums, concerts and tours and so have had a lot of variety. I don’t think I have done it all yet.
I have had some amazing highlights, I have been on Broadway, I have played Proms in the Park in front of thousands of people, I did the Festival of Remembrance, the Royal Variety Show, so there have been so many highlights for me that there is not one specific point where I thought ‘this is it’ or ‘I’ve made it’. It is a marathon not a sprint for me and I am loving every moment. There is always something new out there.
At the moment it is a new album and a new tour.
It couldn’t be an interview with Kerry Ellis without mentioning Elphaba and Wicked. You are currently playing her again aren’t you?
I am but it is almost nearly finished. I have another week, then I am off doing my tour and then return for a final week. I am literally filling in because the current actress Willemijn [Verkaik] had injured her back and they needed someone quite quickly. The producer called me and asked me to step in and I thought it was a great opportunity. If I was ever going to go back to a role, Elphaba would be it and it has been great fun. I have really enjoyed it.
You have been considered the best Elphaba ever. Did that mean there was a lot of pressure going back?
That was the toughest part! That, and being 5 years older, a little bit slower and having had a baby, but yes, the expectations were definitely the toughest part. Everyone was excited to see me but I then realised that I had to deliver and that I now had to live up to everyone’s expectations and what they remembered me as.
After the first night – which was great- I had a great response and support which was lovely. Now I find I have rediscovered the role and I am playing her slightly differently. I have found a new way to play Elphaba.
Could you see yourself going back yet again?
I never say never on any show but then I do like to move on and keep things fresh. You never know what opportunities are going to arise. Wicked is one of those shows that you cannot really say no to.
What is next? You helped out on the film Les Miserables, would you like to do a film?
I’d love to! I was asked to have a screentest for the new ‘Into the Woods’ film but the filming clashed with when my baby was due so I couldn’t go for it which was a shame. I love film especially the musical films, they are brilliant and they are something I could do. I can sing a little bit which helps. Yes absolutely, I would love to.
There is so much Kerry Ellis Merchandise available now, did you ever imagine you would feature on a tea-towel?
A tea-towel, yes I know, they are brilliant! I love a bit of merchandise because it is so random what sells and what people like and what they don’t. Tea-towels, people love them – it’s funny. I haven’t been a figure-doll yet, that I think would be the ultimate!
It’d just look like Barbie wouldn’t it?
If I made it, it would be!
Have you got a message for the people in Horsham and the surrounding area?
Yes, I would like to thank them for all their support over the years. I am so excited to bring something new to them and come closer to people’s hometowns. Come along to the Capitol, enjoy and singalong with me and we’ll have a great time.
Kerry Ellis is performing at the Capitol in Horsham for one night only on Saturday Oct 4th
Tickets are priced at £24.50 and are available from the Box Office at 01403 750220
Full tour dates are as follows.
|Thurs 2nd Oct – 7.30pm||Octagon Theatre Yeovil|
|Fri 3rd Oct – 7.45pm||Queens Theatre Barnstable|
|Sat 4th Oct – 8.00pm||The Capitol, Horsham|
|Mon 6th Oct – 7.30pm||The Courtyard Hereford|
|Tues 7th Oct – 7.30pm||City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds|
|Thurs 9th Oct – 7.30pm||Town hall, Birmingham|
|Fri 10th Oct – 7.30pm||Durham Gala Theatre Durham|
|Tues 14th Oct – 7.30pm||Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage|
|Wed 15th Oct -7.30pm||Harlow Playhouse, Harlow|
|Thurs 16th Oct – 7.30pm||Apex, Bury St Edmunds|
|Sat 18th Oct – 7.30pm||Shrewbury Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury|
|Sun 26th Oct – 7.00pm||Cadogan Hall, London|
|Sun 30th Nov – 7.30pm||Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow|