Kerry Ellis has fast become recognised as the First Lady of West End musicals from her starring roles in London and on Broadway, she has also achieved chart-topping success as a recording artist with multiple album releases.
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, she then immediately transferred to Broadway and played Elphaba at the Gershwin Theatre.
Her many other leading role credits include Nancy in Oliver! at Drury Lane, Eliza Doolittle My Fair Lady, Ellen in Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Miserables.
Currently supporting Collabro on their tour we got to speak to Kerry about life on the road and working with Brian May.
How did you get into acting, was there a particular performance you saw that resonated with you?
I think I always loved it as a child, loved to sing and dance round my parent’s living room and go to all the dance classes every week. I do though remember being taken up to London for my 13th birthday to see Les Miserables. I fell in love that day with theatre; from that moment on I knew I had to be on stage.
Where did you train?
Laine Theatre Arts for 3 years from the age of 16. I also was working in the summer and festive periods while I was training , at a place called Potters Leisure, its there I was able to try out my skills and learn my craft with a working team, I think both aspects gave me great training. I do think we never stop training and honing our craft, I’m forever learning new things and developing as an artist.
Can you tell us about your current, touring production with Collabro: The Road to the Albert Hall, what should people expect?
The show is really fun, the boys are great and real professionals and really care about the show and the audiences. They really do love theatre and we are all having a ball on the road. I am their special guest for the tour and sing a few songs like Anthem, This is me and A million Dreams, which is fun and nice for a change. I do most of the tour but have a few other shows going on so the wonderful Lauren Samuels who steps at a few venues.
What is your favourite number in the Collabro show?
Its always great to sing Anthem, and our band led by Edward Rugman are fantastic, in fact I must mention the whole team, crew, stage management, drivers, catering etc they are all incredible! The boys do a Jersey Boys medley that I just love and always sing along to from my dressing room.
How do you find touring, are you getting to see some interesting places/people?
I do love touring and visiting new places, however I have played lots of these venues over the years, on my solo tour, ABC and Anthems tours with Brian May, a few musicals tours, Miss Saigon, RENT, Wonderland, I have a lot of great memories, it’s really lovely to return to these theatres with yet another new show.
What has been your favourite role you have played and why?
Such a hard one to answer as they have all been special, for different reasons:
My Fair Lady was my first West End show and took me to the National theatre where it all began for me; I got to play the leading role of Eliza Doolittle, just magical.
We Will Rock You was the first role I ever created and introduced me to friend and collaborator Brian May.
Miss Saigon was my first national tour and a show I loved as a young girl.
Les Miserables, first show I ever saw and sparked my love of theatre, played the role of Fantine and went on to be in the musical film.
Wicked changed my life, took me to Broadway and led to my first record deal and release: Wicked in Rock and Anthem. I could go on, but you get the idea, each one is special and also takes over a time in your life!
Why do you think Wicked is still so “popular”? How did it feel to be the first English Elphaba?
I will be forever grateful for Wicked, it brought so many amazing things into my life, Broadway, albums, TV performances, I met my husband while I was doing the show, and it’s very special. I still now get a buzz every time I sing those songs. I think the show is successful for so many reasons, the music, the story the direction, choreography, orchestrations, costumes, set, lights, sound, but most importantly I think the show connects with so many people. The root of the story is about friendship that has no limits and I think everyone can relate to that in some way.
Where has been your favourite place to perform on stage and why?
Brian and I went out to Verona and played the Colosseum, it’s on You Tube and I still have to pinch myself when I see it, the venue was huge nothing like I had ever experienced before, it was also live on TV, it’s worth a look. I was also 4 months pregnant with my second child, one of most magical performances I have ever done.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
I’m fortunate to do a job I love.
What’s been a funny moment for you on stage? Any mishaps you want to share!?
There have been so many! It’s been 20 years! I think a good one was my broom snapped in Wicked, it was in the Munchkin Land scene and the top just broke off, the audience laughed, the cast laughed, it was brilliant fun!
Who are your influences and inspirations?
I do it all for my family, I have a wonderful support network and I couldn’t do it without them. I guess Brian has been a big inspiration over the years – I have learnt so much from him. Fellow cast members are always inspiring; when you work with talent you admire it’s a dream and makes your job easy.
What’s your next project?
I’m working on a new album with new writers which is exciting, I have lots of concerts coming up over the summer and I might even get some time away with my family! Oh and I’m turning 40!!!
What’s your go to song for auditions or just singing in the shower?
I sing anything and everything in the shower, usually something I’ve just heard on the radio or been watching online. Audition songs: I always used to love ‘total eclipse of the heart’ I think that was the song I used for WWRY, now it’s usually just the song from the show.
Is there a role (regardless of gender) you would love to play in a show?
There are so many: Gypsy, Norma Desmond (one day) Piaf, the bakers wife, Sweeney Todd, the Phantom, Jean val Jean, anything in Chicago, Waitress, Elsa . . . I could go on!
Where can people follow your work on Twitter/Facebook/YouTube etc?