If this interview is anything to go by, KERRY ELLIS and LOUISE DEARMAN’s one-off concert on 27 September is bound to be a fun-filled evening of great songs, fantastic anecdotes and a lot of laughs.
Both actresses have an association with the musical Wicked, Dearman being the first person ever to play both Elphaba and Glinda in the production, while Ellis was the first British Elphaba (she has now played the role twice in the West End) and went on to play the same part on Broadway.
Ellis’ theatre credits include War of the Worlds arena tour, Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Les Misérables at the Queens Theatre, We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre and My Fair Lady for the National Theatre and in the West End. She recently appeared as Grizabella in Cats at the London Palladium.
The actress has also performed on tour and in the UK, on a number of occasions with Queen guitarist Brian May. Her latest album, Kerry Ellis, was released last year followed by a UK solo tour.
Dearman played Mrs D. in the new musical version of The Water Babies at Curve, Leicester. Her other major roles include Eva Peron in Evita and Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls. She has also appeared in concert and cabaret both in the West End and in New York. Her latest album is entitled In Time. One of Dearman recent projects was the UK premiere of the new musical show, Judy – The Life and Music of a Hollywood Legend.
Tal Fox met Kerry and Louise at London’s Prince Edward Theatre where their concert will take place.
How did you both meet?
Louise Dearman: We met before we went to drama school. We both went to Laine Theatre Arts, but before that we went to summer school where you could go and have a little taster week. So we were about 15 when we first met, we did a couple of years at the summer school, and then went to Laine Theatre Arts for three years together in the same year.
Where did the idea for this concert come from?
Kerry Ellis: We’ve known each other 20 years plus but we’d never actually worked together. We sang together a lot in college, but over the years we’ve done lots of different shows, musicals and albums. We’d come to a point where we’d both done some really great things. Every time we saw each other we would say ‘Oh we must do something’ and it just never got organised. Then we got our lovely producers who came to us with the idea and we thought this was the perfect time.
LD: It was all about timing and making sure it was the right time and the right place. That’s all come along and I’m so excited.
Had you been thinking about doing it for a while?
LD: We talked about it every time we saw each other. I was a guest on Kerry’s tour and that’s when we really got chatting about it and saying, ‘Look, next year let’s actually do it’, and then we started throwing ideas around. Like Kerry says, our producers said ‘Let’s do this and let’s do it big and properly’ and make it a big deal, exciting and special. A one-off.
KE: And here we are!
Was there a specific reason you chose the Prince Edward Theatre?
KE: I don’t think so. I think a lot of it is that we wanted it to be somewhere that was important. I played the Palladium in 2012 so we wanted somewhere a bit different, somewhere that was exciting and somewhere that was available to us. Delfont Mackintosh has always been a great supporter of both of us and it’s the perfect theatre, right in the centre of town, and they’ve been so wonderful to us.
LD: We’re really excited, it’s a beautiful theatre. It’s a little bit different; it’s not often used for concerts so we feel quite privileged to be using this one.
LD: There will be a real mixed bag of genres. We want it to be based on the fact that we’ve enjoyed such a long friendship. There will be lots of well-known duets in there. We’re between so many ideas at the moment, but there is a real mixed bag of styles. There’s no theme as such.
KE: It’s more about our relationship and our friendship. We’ve covered so many styles in our careers that I think it will knit it together loosely but allow us the freedom to do whatever we want.
How did you narrow down all your song choices for the concert?
KE: Really slowly!
LD: It’s really hard because there are so many amazing songs out there. We don’t want to do the entire concert with all duets. There are some very well-known duets that have to be in there, then our solo material, and also things that … Craig Adams will create for us and make into duets that maybe weren’t before, plus medleys of songs as well. It will also be a lot of fun. Of course you want to do big belting numbers, but we also want it to be a very special, fun night that takes us down memory lane and lets the audience know that we have a real laugh when we’re together. It won’t all be melting people’s faces off with a big belt.
KE: That’s been the hardest bit actually because we’ve just started to put a set list together and I’ve been out and about and heard different songs.
LD: We have this joint e-mail going on that everyone is tagged into so we can keep throwing songs out there.
KE: We could have a concert that’s five hours long but we have to stop at some point.
How has it been finally working together?
LE: We’re having a lot of fun doing these interviews. As you can tell, we don’t get along very well and don’t have much fun at all [laughs]. It’s lovely, it’s really lovely. We’re both so busy all the time, but these moments, when we’re doing interviews, we’re having a laugh and it’s great to catch up and work on the show together.
KE: It’s a nice excuse for us to hang out and actually do some work together, and what has been interesting is we did a small rehearsal press day, we sang a little bit in the studio and it was so straightforward, instinctive. We know what each other is doing, and after 20 years and not even working with each other, we just know each other’s voices and naturally go to different notes and harmonies. It’s lovely, it’s a nice process, and it’s always great to work with your friends, such a joyful and easy process, and that’s what it’s going to be.
How much time have you had so far to rehearse?
KE: Trying to collate our diaries was insane. The two of us and our MD and producers, it was a nightmare trying to get us all in the same room. We have now got a few days.
LD: We have started properly rehearsing this month. So we’ve had the whole of August into September. We’ll start with the music rehearsals and then put it on its feet.
Could you give any hints as to what we can expect?
LD: There will be lots of songs made famous by people we have grown up idolising, and there will be songs people won’t expect as well. I don’t want to give too much away. From the footage that we recorded already, there are some massive giveaways there, like the Smash duet of course and the Streisand, Judy Garland stuff as well. There are some duets that just have to be in there, they’re iconic, and we would like to re-create them and make them our own, as well as all the new stuff we’re going to bring to it as well.
KE: Not really, we go up for a lot of the same things but we haven’t actually played the same roles. There are a lot of characters we could play that are similar, but I don’t know whether it’s through circumstance or something else. It’s a good thing really because Louise is off doing one thing and I’m off doing something else.
What have been the highlights of your careers so far?
KE: This concert!
LD: We haven’t done it yet; let’s wait until afterwards to say that! Give it a while. I suppose musical theatre wise – of course Wicked but I also really loved performing in concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The highlight for me would have to be working with Patrick Swayze, it’s like a huge moment. There are so many! Didn’t do the lift but we did the Dirty Dancing dance with all the girls in the last warm up [of Guys and Dolls]. He was a wonderful man. Lots of highlights.
KE: Same with me really, there’s too many and the thing about both of us is we’re very lucky to have such diversity. We do get to do amazing musicals, but also we have a lot of concerts, albums and tours. There’s a lot of other stuff going on which for me is really important especially now, variety is really key. Having different challenges is great because if you are in a show, you are in it for about a year, and you need to find your own different challenges and inspiration within that show. Highlights, Wicked, Broadway probably up there, the Albert Hall was amazing, first album, there’s too many.
What else do you both have planned?
LD: Lots of concert work for me. I’m off to Venice and Paris to do some concerts with orchestras there and the Christmas Proms as well. I love it, like Kerry said, it’s all about the variety. Singing everything from Gershwin to Bernstein and even Bond music. I’m doing Friday Night is Music Night which is all pop too. I’m singing Whitney Houston’s ‘One Moment in Time’, so all of those different things quench my thirst for different genres and styles.
KE: Same, a lot of diverse stuff. A load of concerts at Christmas and I’m going on tour again with Brian [May], an Italian tour and then a UK tour.
LD: How awful for you…
KE: [laughs] and an album. Lots of different things, busy but nice.
Readers may also be interested in:
Kerry Ellis and Louise Dearman team up for special one-off concert – News
Secrets of Stage Success – Louise Dearman and Mark Evans – Book Review
Kerry Ellis and Brian May release new single – News