Kerry Ellis has fast become recognized as the First Lady of West End musicals from her starring roles in London and on Broadway, and has achieved chart-topping success with her debut album Anthems. 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 Kerry won the 2008 Whatsonstage.com Award for 'Best Takeover in a Role'. Her many other leading role credits include Nancy in Oliver!, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Ellen in Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Miserables.
She is soon to be starring in the 20th Anniversary production of Rent in Concert.
How will the show differ from other productions of Rent as it is in concert format?
Performing a concert version of the show gives us freedom to explore and enjoy the music; our concert is more a celebration of the show but still respecting the story.
You've taken part in concert specials before, such as Chess. Do you think they convey the story as well?
Definitely, it's like highlights of the show. Musicals tell the story through the song.
You're working with Rory Taylor of Jesus fame, are you looking forward to working with him?
Rory actually came and guested for me at the London Hippodrome last year, it was a one off special but he was fantastic and I'm looking forward to working more with him. He's a great guy with a huge talent.
How would you describe your charter Mimi?
Well she's young but quite street wise, she has her problems but is vulnerable and honest which will be interesting to play.
What is your favourite song from Rent?
There are some cracking songs in the show but I think ‘Without You’ is just simple and beautiful.
Are you looking forward to getting back on the road?
I've been on the road quite a bit over the last few years and I love it. It's great to take shows to people's home towns you get a real sense of appreciation and warmth.
Are you a fan of the Rent film?
I've seen it once and enjoyed it but I have to say I love the stage show; I have great memories of seeing it in London for the first time.
Did you ever get the chance to see Rent on Broadway?
I did actually a few years ago I went to see my friend Eden Espinosa in the show and it was fantastic.
Out of all the musical theatre roles your have played, which would be your favourite and why?
I always get asked this and it's so difficult because they are all special to me for different reasons. They are like children you love them all but can't choose a favourite.
What are your plans after the Rent tour?
I'm very excited to be performing a one night special at the London Palladium with an amazing band and guests on the 12th of May. Then I'm off on tour again with Brian on our Born Free Tour.
You're back on the road with Brian May. What's it like working with such an icon of music?
He's amazing and I'm very fortunate to be in the position I am. I've been working with Brian now for over a decade but I think we are finally in our groove and found a great way of working. I'm really proud if this show and think it gives people something they haven't seen before.
Who would be your dream duet partner?
I have been lucky to work with some incredible people in the past like Barry Manilow, Josh Groban, Marti Pellow, Jason Donovan and the list goes on, but I would love to sing with Liza Minnelli or Beyonce or a female icon of that quality.
Who inspired you to become a musical star?
So many people: Liza, Barbra Streisand, Elaine Paige, but then at the other end of the spectrum are Queen, Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Cindi Lauper. I was always interested in a diverse range of music.
Which character would be your ultimate dream to play?
Again, there are so many. I'd love to play someone new and undiscovered, I'd love to do Tell Me on a Sunday, Gypsy, Sunset Boulevard, Piaf... the list goes on.
What would be your favourite musical of all time?
That's tough. I like to be moved and transported when I see a show; though it's not really a musical as such I love War Horse.
Wicked is going on the road later this year with a national tour. Would you consider playing Elphaba again?
Wicked was a special time for me and I had so many highs such as Broadway, The Royal Variety, Awards and my final performance that it would have to be the right time for me to return.
What are you most looking forward to about the tour?
The music, the cast, the venues, the audiences. There's so much I can't wait .
Have you any memories of playing in Birmingham before?
Yes lots. Brian and I came to Birmingham with Our Anthems tour and we had a blast. I love the city and am looking forward to returning.
Why should people come and see Rent?
Because you don't want to miss it!
Kerry Ellis was speaking to Kieran Johnson
Rent in Concert arrives at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham on Tuesday April 30 and Stoke-on-Trent’s Regent Theatre on May 2.
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