Musical Arrangements/Direction: Craig Adams
Reviewer: Christopher Owen
The Public Reviews Rating:
Kerry Ellis is a powerhouse vocalist that many will know from her stint(s) in Wicked, Oliver, and We Will Rock You, along with numerous appearances performing alongside Brian May, both on stage and on television (also her now infamous ‘The Voice’ audition). That said the opportunity to see Kerry perform in such a gorgeous, intimate cabaret space is a rarity, and one that will excite many a musical theatre fan.
The evening was centred around songs from shows that Ellis has been in, or has been inspired by, with numbers that varied from classic musical theatre (Les Mis, My Fair Lady), to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. It felt somewhat a safe choice of material from this veteran performer, and although musically there wasn’t anything wrong, she seemed out of her comfort zone with such an intimate crowd. She sung through the evening with warmth and affection in the softer numbers, and at times gave us a hint of the power and strength that we have come to know she can deliver, without ever doing a ‘full Elphaba’ and blowing the roof off the Matcham room. A personal favourite of the evening, and one of the songs that worked better in this style of performance, was when Ellis stripped back all the showbiz styling, and gave a lovely version of Tell Me On A Sunday. Kerry showed how well she can handle the raw emotion of a song and looked vulnerable, a quality that you sometimes forget she can posses so well when belting out songs with a rock band.
The musical arrangements by Craig Adams felt like the real star of this relatively short cabaret set, bringing an alternative musical style to many of the well known numbers. He displayed empathy to the lyrics of the songs, and altered the feeling well with the support of a fantastic band. His arrangement of Defying Gravity was very different to what we are used to, a soft, acoustic vibe ballad which Ellis sang well, but felt more suited to a performer who hasn’t played the full role so many times.
But by far the standout of the evening was the guest – Rory Taylor, recently seen on ITV’s Superstar, who joined Kerry for a rendition of As Long As You’re Mine from Wicked (which she seemed reluctant to perform again) and a solo Paul McCartney cover in which he also played guitar. He showed not only that a male rock voice can have a quite beautiful quality and adapt to musical theatre perfectly, but also that to hold an audience’s attention in such a small space requires a personality that brings humour as well as joy to the occasion. I hope he appears on the London stage again very soon, and would be well suited to his own evening like this with a live band.
Overall, the evening was enjoyable, and sounded fantastic acoustically. It is hard not to enjoy any performer in such a wonderful venue as the Hippodrome, however short their set. The major Kerry Ellis fans will absolutely love this evening, for the rest who know her work, it will just be okay.