Interview – Kerry Ellis prepares to play Grizabella in Cats at the London Palladium

Kerry Ellis Headshot (Main)

Kerry Ellis takes over the eignsole of Grizabella in Cats at the London Palladium from 9 February

KERRY ELLIS will join the cast of Cats at the London Palladium to play the role of Grizabella from 9 February 2015, taking over from Nicole Scherzinger.

Based on T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Catsthe original creative team – director Trevor Nunn, associate director and choreographer Gillian Lynne, designer John Napier and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber – have reunited to bring Cats back to the West End. Due to public demand, the run of the record-breaking show has now been extended to 25 April 2015.

West End musical star Ellis has played Elphaba in Wicked both in the West End and on Broadway (she recently ‘turned green’ again when she returned to the London production for a limited run). Her other 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.

Ellis has also performed on tour and in the UK in The Sound of the Musicals, West End Women and Rent 20th Anniversary Concert. With Brian May she completed a UK and European tour of Acoustic by CandlelightHer other concert performances include Kerry Ellis Live at the London Palladium, Anthems at the Royal Albert Hall and on tour, Proms on the Thames with Russell Watson, Halle at Lytham Proms with Michael Ball, Night of 1000 VoicesChess in Concert and The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, Godspell in Concert at Manchester Opera House and BBC Proms in the ParkHer latest album, Kerry Ellis, was released last year followed by a UK solo tour.

Musical Theatre Review caught up with Kerry Ellis during rehearsals: 

Kerry, you have played a number of iconic roles in your career so far, is Grizabella a part you have always fancied playing?

I remember being taken to see Cats when I was just finishing school, I loved it then and never thought I would get the chance to be in the show. Of course over the years I have sung and performed the iconic song ‘Memory’, but to now be performing where it originated from, to be directed by Trevor Nunn and Chrissy Cartwright, and hear all the original stories and background, is a dream and an honour. I feel privileged to be in this magical show.


Kerry Ellis treats her Twitter fans to a sneak peek of her Cats make-up as Grizabella

When we last chatted, you said: “I think I’m quite ready to do a new show, it has felt like a part of my life has been missing for a little while. I just need the right part/show to come along.”

This was absolutely the right show to come along at this point in my life, I actually feel ready to take on a role such as Grizabella. I feel I have had enough experience on stage and off to have a stab at this iconic role, I’m delighted I get to play the role at such a fantastic venue too.

Was this the right role at the right time, how were you approached?

I heard Cats was making a return to the West End and was excited at the prospect of the opportunity. Nicole Scherzinger was an amazing choice to open the show and to be taking the reins from her is exciting.

What do you think of the changes that have been made in this new production?

There have been a few changes in the show for this new production, one of which being the new Grizabella look – which I love – I think it gives the character a slightly different feel, making her a little more glamorous and yet vulnerable. There are developed and extended orchestrations from the Lord [Lloyd Webber]which are beautiful, and of course Rum Tum Tugger has a whole new feel and song style which is great. I think it’s good for shows to adapt and breathe at times, it gives them life and new direction.

You follow Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella, how will your interpretation differ?

It’s really exciting to be taking the reigns from the gorgeous Nicole Scherzinger. I saw the opening night of the show and she was fantastic. We are very different, but I guess have some similar qualities, being strong career women. Like every role, I try to bring a honest truthful performance which hopefully touches the audience.

How exciting is it to be singing one of the best-known musical theatre songs of all time. Is it daunting too?

‘Memory’ is a phenomenal song to sing and I can’t wait. It does come at the end of the show which is tough to have to wait and keep the excitement up, it also means there is great build up and expectation. Everyone knows this song, so trying to bring it to life and give it new meaning with be challenging but fun.

Kerry and Brian

Kerry Ellis performs with her regular collaborator, legendary Queen musician Brian May

When we last caught up with you, you were busy releasing your new album and starting off your solo tour. How did those ventures go?

I loved it and was really proud of what we achieved. I have never worked with Pledge Music [the online Direct-to-Fan music platform] before but it was a great way to meet the fans and find out what they like and enjoy about my music, and get them involved in the whole process.

You had also returned to Wicked and the role of Elphaba for a limited run. That must have be such a rewarding experience and one for which you have been nominated for Best Takeover in a Musical at the WhatsOnStage Awards. (Plus, we believe, you have been nominated for a London Cabaret award too).

It was such a joyful, though very daunting experience to return to Wicked late last year, it had been five years since I played the role of Elphaba. Again, there was great expectation and living up to that was a great pressure. However, I loved being back. Wicked will always be close to my heart and I had experiences there I will remember for the rest of my life.

You always seem to find time for cabarets and concerts, like your recent Pheasantry gigs. Is it important to you to try out new material and keep in contact with your audience?

I enjoy all kinds of performing and feel you grow as an artist each time you try something new. I can be myself when I do concerts and cabarets, and I think that’s really important. I’m learning and developing all the time and I believe variety is key.

Could you give us an update on any other projects on the boil. I believe you have recently done some workshops with Little Voices, plus you will be leading the cast of the charity concert The Night of Electric Voices.

I’m so excited to open in Cats on Monday 9 February, then I go on to a few more concerts with the gorgeous Adam Garcia in Scotland which will be fun. In the summer Brian [May] and I will be returning to the studio to work on another album and perhaps do a few shows along the way. There are a couple of new projects I might be involved in developing which is very exciting for me, a few workshops and whatever else comes up, I love being busy.

A silly question, but do you actually like cats (the animal, not the musical)?!

I love cats , in fact I love all animals!

* Kerry Ellis was in conversation with Musical Theatre Review editor Lisa Martland

Readers may also be interested in:

Kerry Ellis and Lee Mead join The Night of Electric VoicesNews

Kerry Ellis on her new album, UK tour and return to Wicked – Interview

Cats – London Palladium – Review


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