Kerry Ellis performed in cabaret at The Pheasantry, London.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Seven months pregnant and thankfully unrestricted by the catsuit she wore when taking over Grizabella from Nicole Scherzinger at the London Palladium earlier in the year, Kerry Ellis is in wickedly good form for her short residency in the Kings Road cabaret room, the fifth time she has appeared at The Pheasantry.
With a large fan base accumulated over many years of West End hit musicals, Wicked the obvious one but not forgetting My Fair Lady, Les Misérables, Oliver! and now Cats, Ellis can be guaranteed to put bums on seats – the couple I sat next to had trained it down from Northampton, a girl in the front row had journeyed even further, from Leeds – and there was barely room to swing a cat (appropriately enough) or wield a knife and fork.
She gave them what they wanted in a safe, solid set, working her way through classic film and show tunes, most of them connected to her career. The simple sweetness of her middle register is particularly appealing and never can those those well-worn classics ‘Memory’ and ‘Defying Gravity’ have sounded better, nor her first offering from Wicked, that terrific torch song ‘I’m Not That Girl’.
Having named her first-born (now almost two) Alfie, she has to give us the Bacharach/David evergreen of that name in tribute to the late Cilla Black and her unshowy treatment of the Elvis Presley hit ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You’, with lovely piano accompaniment from her MD Will Stuart, is a joy.
Scott Alan’s ‘Never Neverland (Fly Away)’ and the Sherman Brothers’ ‘Feed the Birds’ (from Mary Poppins) are less familiar to many – as a newish mum and mum-to-be, songs with children appeal bring the best out in her but the first makes such an impression that I had to YouTube it for a second listen when I got home.
Good at encouraging audience participation – this one knew every word of pretty well everything – Ellis plucked a willing 19-year-old student to duet with her on ‘For Good’, another hit from Wicked, and the result was so polished and word-perfect that a cynic might say it wasn’t quite as spontaneous as it was presented as being.
Not everything was perfect. The incessant fidgeting with her lustrous hair distracts as much as it detracts from the songs, Carole King’s ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ is topical with Beautiful in town but doesn’t really suit her voice and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ is a little too nasal and piercing for my ear.
Full marks, though, to the rest of the evening, not least her special guests, with the brilliant Janie Dee, complete with an innuendo-riddled choc ice prop, performing the naughty (in a deliciously innocent way) ‘My Private Delight’ by the bright new songwriting team of Barlow and Smith who are working on putting a show together with Ellis.
This is the exceptionally clever comic song they composed for Dee’s Elizabethan evening at the Globe in May and if they can keep that standard up, we shall be hearing much more of those two young ladies.
Bella Barlow, who accompanied on piano, had earlier sung another witty ditty about how Christmas seems to start in August as far as the shops are concerned, before the star of the evening came back for a closing sing-song with her adoring fans, all of whom will have gone home in the best of spirits.
Readers may also be interested in:
Interview – Kerry Ellis and Louise Dearman prepare for their one-off concert in September
News – Kerry Ellis and Louise Dearman release new single ahead of September concert