At the time of the interview, Kerry Ellis had just completed the Born Free Tour of the UK with Brian May. Kerry was on a European tour with Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of The Worlds (November 2012 to January 2013).
Kerry has starred as Elphaba in Wicked both on Broadway and in the West End, and also originated the role of Meat in the West End’s We Will Rock You. Her many other stage credits include Nancy in Oliver! at the London Palladium, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Ellen in Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Miserables.
Kerry achieved chart success with her debut album ‘Anthems’, and looking to the future she will be playing a live concert at The London Palladium with special guests on Sunday 12th May 2013.
Kerry recently took time out to answer some questions about herself and her career. I hope you enjoy what she had to say.
At a young age you enjoyed swimming, horse-riding, and also dance classes at the Ann Holland School of Theatre Dance. What was your inspiration for the performing arts?
I always knew I wanted to sing and perform, it was in my blood. I was fortunate to be able to go to drama school and have some training too. I remember going to see Les Miserables when I was 13 for my birthday and fell in love. I knew that was what I wanted to do from then on.
What was it that inspired you so much or had the seed already been sown?
I just loved the theatre and the live atmosphere. It’s almost a danger of not knowing what’s going to happen. There is a real buzz you get from performing live and I don’t think that will ever leave me.
Your first stage role was at the age of nine as a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz at the Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich. What is your favourite memory from your time in the show?
I mainly remember hanging out with all the other kids really and what a good time we had, it was all new and exciting. The costumes were fun too.
When you were eleven, you successfully auditioned for the National Youth Music Theatre and attended there for the summer. What was it like being away from home with other like-minded children?
Wow you have done your homework! Hehe. The NYMT was an incredible experience and it was just like a school trip really, I made great friends – some of which I am still friends with today. It was amazing to be in such a professional environment from such a young age and I think that was the grounding for my training.
At the age of sixteen, you attended Laine Theatre Arts. How did your time there prepare you for the future?
I think training is really important, the industry is very hard and having a formal training does help prepare you for what’s to come.
Did you ever have thoughts of any other career apart from the performing arts?
You have appeared in several pantomimes including Dick Whittington, Aladdin and the title role in Cinderella. What do you like most about pantomimes?
I love the tradition of panto, plus I got to work with some incredible people like Bobby Davro, Kris Akabusi, Bella Emberg that I would never usually get to meet. Pantomimes are fun and festive plus they give you a real challenge to win over an excitable crowd.
You made your West End debut as an understudy in the revival of My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle. Can you tell us about this experience?
My Fair Lady changed everything, it was my first big West End show, plus I played opposite some major actors. I was thrown in really which I am grateful for. There was a great deal of press around the show and it was a brilliant production. I also got to work with the legend Trevor Nunn.
You performed the lead role of Eliza Dolittle only a few times and on one of those occasions Brian May and Ben Elton were in the audience. They encouraged you to audition for their new juke-box musical We Will Rock You. What happened next?
I got the job! Ha ha, I did go through seven auditions though to get it, but it was a good process and rewarding to create a role.
What was it like originating the role of Meat in We Will Rock You?
Incredible, there are lots of exciting things that come with a new show: cast album, press night, bonus performances – so it’s a lot of fun. Working with Queen, Ben Elton and Arleen Phillips was fantastic too. It’s also so great to have your stamp on a role.
You won awards for your portrayal of Elphaba in the West End and Broadway productions of Wicked. What was so special about the role and your time playing it?
Elphaba is the toughest role I have ever taken on but also one of the most rewarding. I was really challenged by the role and had to train myself to do it, physically and emotionally but the pay-off was well worth it.
You have performed many roles including Nancy in Oliver! at the London Palladium, Ellen in Miss Saigon on a UK Tour and Fantine in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre. Are there any shows that have a special place in your heart?
They all do.
In 2011 you sung the National Anthem at Wembley Stadium before the start of the F.A. Community Shield football match. Can you describe your emotions on this occasion?
CRAZY!! Incredible, memorable, amazing, breathtaking, I could go on and on, a lifetime memory there.
You are a supporter of the Born Free Foundation, and have this year toured the UK with Brian May on the Born Free Tour. What can you tell us about your work with the foundation?
I am very fond of the foundation and have really enjoyed doing our tour. Brian and I went out to South Africa earlier this year to perform at the ‘Pride of Cape Town” and have a little look at the work they are doing out there. It really is a big problem, to think that your child, grandchildren may never see a lion in the wild, or even at all is tragic. We only scratched the surface but I think so many feel the same way as I do and don’t know what to do to help. Our tour was spreading the word a little along with our single of which all the proceeds go to help the charity. www.bornfree.com
How important is wildlife conservation to you?
We are lucky we still have wild animals in this world. Imagine what it would be like if there were none left! We have to change things or that will be a reality.
You are currently performing in the touring production of The War of The Worlds. Can you tell us about your character and how she fits into the storyline?
I play Beth the Parson’s wife, Jason Donovon plays the Parson and we are having a lot of fun playing these roles. It’s not every day you get to run around on stage to a full orchestra with Martians! Hehe, I’m loving it. Come and see us.
The show is on an Arena Tour in Ireland, UK, Netherlands and Germany. What do you enjoy most about being on tour?
Well it is like a huge family, we all get stuck in and work together, it’s a great group of people that all support each other.
Why should everyone come along to see the show?
It’s a real experience, we have a star cast including Jason Donovon, Marti Pellow, Ricky Wilson, a live band and orchestra, a hologram of Liam Neeson, illusions, a great score, 100 ft screen and a 30ft Martian! What more could you want, oh and of course Jeff Wayne himself conducts every show!!!
You are performing a live concert at the London Palladium in 2013 with ticket bookings now open. What can your fans expect from you at the concert?
I am sooooooooooooooooo excited about this. It will be the first time I have done my own big show in London at such a prestigious venue. I feel very blessed to have this opportunity and blown away by the fans who have already booked tickets. It’s going to be great fun, it will just be me doing what I do with maybe a few friends dropping by.
What else have you got planned for 2013?
Hopefully Brian and I will do another leg of our Born Free Tour and go Celtic! I have several concerts and workshops all over the country. I’m performing in the RENT concerts in the summer and hopefully do some more touring myself.
Have you any message to followers of your career?
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
For updates on Twitter @kerryjaneellis1
Many thanks Kerry and best wishes!
Interviewed by Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1
Monday 3rd December 2012