BWW Interview: Kerry Ellis Discusses Her Live At Zedel Residency
Kerry Ellis is known as one of the West End's favourite leading ladies. She recently completed her first non-singing role as Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest 2018 UK Tour.
Kerry speaks to BWW about Wicked, the fragile nature of the theatre industry and her upcoming three-week residency at Live at Zedel in September.
Are you excited to be returning to the Zedel?
I really am. It's such a great space to perform in: it's so intimate and relaxed. I love it.
What can we expect during your residency?
I've recently been touring my 20th anniversary show round the UK and performed songs from my latest album, "Golden Days", so I thought I would bring a new show to the Zedel. I've put together some new songs and a few nods to some of my history.
How do you prepare for a residency? Do you plan a core set or different things for every night?
I started by putting together a new show with new songs, then a few ideas to change the show up each night. My MD Craig Adams wanted to do something interactive, so we've come up with a lucky dip section. We'll put all the songs from my past into a jar and get the audience to pick out two or three numbers each night that I will sing! The show will change each time, keeping it fresh and fun.
Do you have any special guests planned?
I love having people join me in my shows and I always like to find new people - and talent that perhaps has not been found yet. I have a few in mind, and maybe some old friends too...
You've played massive venues, from the Dominion Theatre in London to the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway. Zedel is far more intimate. How do you approach such starkly different-sized audiences?
I really enjoy playing these intimate venues: it gives you a chance to hear the audience and talk to them, like you're at a dinner party with friends. The large venues have different qualities and create drama and atmosphere. Both are great to perform in.
It was so sad to see you lose out with two productions that went bankrupt recently [Wonderland and Heaven on Earth UK Tours]. What helped you to get through that period?
Both sad situations. I think I have a different appreciation though for creating shows. Since doing my own shows and tours, I understand how difficult it is to put a show together and actually get it up and running. But I'm not making excuses for either of them, and I don't think it should be able to happen without some sort of protection and support for all those involved who end up losing jobs.
What should be done to prevent repeat incidents, such as the recent abrupt cancellation of the Thoroughly Modern Millie UK Tour?
It's crazy that we have insurance for everything - our homes, cars, phones - but there doesn't seem to be any sort of insurance for new shows. I think there should be some sort of support or insurance for all those people who lose their jobs at such short notice. We are in an industry that is crazy and not stable.
That is part of the buzz, I guess - not knowing what's next and where a new production could take you. But we're all trying to have careers, so a little support if a contract ends abruptly would help bridge the gap to the next venture.
What's your favourite thing about juggling a performance career and family life?
I'm fortunate to get to do both. It's not easy and I'm burning the candle at both ends, but I love my job and I love being a mum and having a family. I do enjoy taking my boys with me and giving them unusual experiences, opening their eyes to different words and people. I work hard and try to be the best mum I can.
Who of Eliza, Elphaba, Mimi and Meat would be the perfect road trip companion?
I think I'd take them all! Ha, it would certainly make it interesting!
Wicked is celebrating its 15th anniversary over the pond this year and recently it's had its 5,000th performance in London. What is it about the show that keeps bringing people back?
I'm so proud to have been a part of this magical phenomenon and I'm forever grateful to the show. Over the years, I've met so many people who have been affected by the show in different ways.
The story of relationships touches people and stays with them. The music, of course, is timeless and [universal], and then all of the costumes, sets, direction and choreography works to complete the experience. I think this show will run and run, and I can't wait to see what happens with the film!
Why do BWW reviewers keep returning to Wicked and other productions? Check out our recent article about multiple trips to long-running shows!
Photo credit: The Soundcheck Group