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BWW Interview: Kerry Ellis Talks CABARET ALL STARS at Proud Embankment

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The actress chats about joining Proud Embankment Cabaret All Stars, how she's been coping during lockdown and her favourite show costumes.

BWW Interview: Kerry Ellis Talks CABARET ALL STARS at Proud Embankment
Kerry Ellis

Award-winning performer Kerry Ellis has headlined both West End and Broadway shows including Wicked, We Will Rock You (where she originated the role of Meat) and Les Miserables. She's also a chart-topping singer, podcast host and, now, a member of Proud Embankment's All Star Cabaret.

Kerry chats about being back on stage, how she kept her focus during lockdown and joining TikTok...

Incredibly exciting news that you've joined Proud Embankment's All Star Cabaret on Friday nights. How have you been finding the shows and what can people expect from it?

I'm so overexcited, because it's been a while since I've actually been in a venue to perform in front of an audience, so I've just been beside myself with excitement. The atmosphere in there is electric, it's so much fun. I think people have been starved of live performances for so long that they're just chomping at the bit to get out and enjoy something and have that escapism.

To be on stage with other incredible artists that I've not worked with before is amazing. There's people from Cirque du Soleil, there's some from Vegas who are doing incredibly impressive acts. It's so unique to have something like this, and to be so close to those kinds of acts is really rare.

I'm singing in the show, which is just delightful, and I'm so excited to be there. And there's also a compere, lots of giveaway - it's a really entertaining evening and it's just a joy to be there.

It must be amazing to be back on stage performing in front of a live audience?

It really is - I've never, ever experienced anything like this. I've always been one of those fortunate people to always be working, to always have something going on. So to have that suddenly taken away for several months has been more challenging than I expected.

I'm even more grateful to be back and to be doing what I do. I've spent my life doing this, I've been perfecting this career for 20-odd years plus, so to have that taken away for a little while was just tragic.

The great thing about Proud Embankment is they're giving people an experience in a safe environment. They've completely redone the venue - there's a new filter system, everybody's socially distanced - but there's still this atmosphere of being in a venue with other people and experiencing a live performance.

As you've mentioned, there's lots of incredible acts in the show. If you could perform any of them, which would it be?

I'd have a go at all of them, I think!

I sing with a couple of the girls as well as singing on my own. I sing with dancers to start with, who are amazing, and Jessicats, who's a burlesque dancer, who's a phenomenal act. Also, the J'adore La Vie girls, they're amazing - they're kind of old-school burlesque who are phenomenal dancers, really entertaining and funny.

I also sing with one of the aerial artists, and I almost have to remind myself to sing because I'm watching her with my mouth open, she's so incredible and magical. And then we've also got our Brazilian bombshell Marie Devilreux, who does a fire act, and you just can't miss it. She puts this fire all over her body, and honestly my jaw just drops when I watch it.

It really does gives you everything that you want from live theatre - you want that escapism, you want to be wowed, you want to be transported - and it does that.

Cabaret is known for having beautiful and extravagant costumes. What's been your favourite costume to wear in previous shows?

Wicked has to be up there - the Emerald City costumes will stay with me for life, I think, they were so impressive. To wear the Wicked Witch dress in Act Two and it was so beautifully fitted and elegant and heavy! It looked incredible and you felt powerful and fantastic in it.

My Nancy dress from Oliver! also was pretty special. Again, it just fitted so well and just completely transformed me.

You've also taken part in projects during lockdown. What was that experience like?

Yeah, I did the Drive In, which was fun. I was one of the first people to do it, and we'd been locked down for so long and we'd all been performing in our living rooms up until then.

So, anything to get me out there and in front of an audience, even though they were all in their cars, was great. It's a new company called West End Musical Brunch, and they've been really successful - and hats off to them, because it's not been an easy time.

I also did the West End Voices, which was directed by Earl Carpenter - it's his company and that was a big risk for him to take on something so huge at such a difficult time. I really applaud and support these people for trying to put us in work and support the business and get something out there.

BWW Interview: Kerry Ellis Talks CABARET ALL STARS at Proud Embankment
Kerry Ellis's podcast

During lockdown, I did focus my energy. I needed to do something because I couldn't just do nothing, and it's where my podcast was born. So I've been quite busy doing my Keep Calm and Kerry On podcasts, which has kept me beautifully busy and inspired. To chat to other people has been lovely - and perhaps something I wouldn't have done had I not been in lockdown.

I've also been sending out my new album, which has been fun too, because I didn't expect to do that either! I had a full calendar this year and lots of concerts and my own shows, so I made an album before lockdown that I wanted to take to all these shows so that I could perform and then give something special to people that they couldn't get anywhere else. Obviously, lockdown hit, so I couldn't do that, so I put it on my website and it's sold really well. I've been signing them and sending little notes out from my home, which has actually been really nice and a personal way to share my music.

How did the podcast start? Anything you can share with us that's coming up?

I'm on season two now, I'm literally about to tie it up!

I did a podcast called Acting Up a while ago, and I was part of a panel and I really enjoyed it. I thought, one day I'll do my own one and talk to other industry people, and share a side of the industry or their lives that perhaps they don't talk about normally.

But I just hadn't had time to fit it in, so lockdown was the perfect time because we're all sat at home and suddenly we all had to get a little bit tech savvy and find ways to communicate. So, I got in touch with the producer who I'd talked about doing the podcast with before, a guy called Martin at Peroxide Media. He was like, "We can all do it over Zoom, we can all chat and record it in various ways and that's it".

I think I actually got to speak to lots of incredible people because they were at home. If we were in a normal situation, people are so busy that to actually come into London to do a podcast is more challenging than to say to someone, can you jump on a Zoom call for an hour? People were so lovely and open and wanting to chat about their time at the moment and their experiences. For me, it's been quite therapeutic and a real focus through this time.

To be doing a season two is just joyous and fantastic. I had no idea - I thought it might just be a one season thing and that would be it. We've almost wrapped season two and I'm about to do a live edit for the final episode - I'm going to do a Wicked special in London with a very small studio audience, and it will be streamed so that people can actually see it.

What have you missed the most about theatre?

Oh, everything. It's amazing how we take a lot of things for granted.

I did Tonight at The Coliseum, which I loved. Even just to walk in a dressing room, I was like, "Oh, I've missed this so much". I was so appreciative of where I was. You can get quite blasé about walking into a dressing room, but I really took it all in and it was magical. And then to walk into the Coliseum, it took my breath away to see all those red seats, and to just be on stage was a real emotional moment.

What was nice about that was to suddenly be on stage with other musicians and to play my album live, that was wonderful. But not having an audience there was hard and was a double-edged sword. However, knowing that people could tune in and view it from their homes was great, and a nice step in the right direction.

But to be in a venue, actually live and have an audience there, that is why we do it. So, I think that's probably what I've missed the most - that has been really tough.

You've played some amazing roles in your career. Are there any you'd love to go back to?

I always like to take on new challenges. For me, there's so much that I haven't done, and it's always interesting to find something new to do.

There are so many shows like Evita and The Baker's Wife, or maybe when I'm older, roles in Gypsy or Sunset Boulevard - those kinds of shows would be amazing.

I probably had the most fun in We Will Rock You because it was just great to run around singing rock songs and feel like rock stars. But I get to sing all those songs when I do these concerts.

So, I think I'm always moving forwards rather than looking back. But, you know, if the opportunity came right around, maybe I would do one of them.

I noticed that you've joined TikTok recently...

I'm a bit new to it, if I'm honest. I may have done about four or five posts I think, I haven't quite got the hang of it.

I enjoy it when I'm doing a show because that kind of dramatic change that you can do from a costume change and those sorts of things are interesting to me. If I'm at home, I don't see things as creatively as some people do - I think it's just because of how I go out to work in theatre and that's where the excitement is for me. People are so brilliant at being creative in their own homes and coming up with all these ideas, and I'm not so great at that. But I do like it and it's been a nice thing to bring people together.

I'm going to do some more during Cabaret All Stars because there's loads of great costumes and the backstage is fantastic. I think it's interesting to watch, so I think I'll try and do a few more there.

Why should people book for Cabaret All Stars?

It's a really rare opportunity to see performers at the top of their game in one venue - this isn't going to happen again. The minute things start to open, these people will be off all around the world (as I will be) and being really busy again. So you get to see all these unique people in one place for one evening, and it's something that you just don't want to miss out on.

I'm having the time of my life and I can't wait to perform every Friday - and I promise you, you won't regret it. It's an enjoyable evening: you can sit, have drinks, have dinner and watch an incredible show, and it really is something not to miss.

Kerry Ellis is performing at Cabaret All Stars on Friday nights in October and November. Tickets can be purchased on proudcabaret.com



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From This Author Eleni Cashell