Kerry Ellis: The Story So Far – The Pheasantry

Kerry Ellis Headshot (Main)Kerry Ellis: The Story So Far continues at The Pheasantry, London until 20 August.

Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩

This regular visitor to The Pheasantry has done better-prepared shows than The Story So Far which I thought would be a chronological retrospective of a career which took off when she understudied Martine McCutcheon in the problem-filled revival of My Fair Lady in 2001.

Because of the star’s frequent absences, Kerry Ellis got plenty of early opportunities of valuable West End lead experience and later graduated to stardom in her own right when playing Elphaba in Wicked in London and later on Broadway.

Sadly, there are no anecdotes about those two pivotal roles – there must have plenty to say about what must have been a quite chaotic My Fair Lady, never knowing what might happen next – although we do get a couple of songs from that show.

And, of course, Ellis dare not do ‘Defying Gravity’, the big Stephen Schwartz hit from Wicked. She’d be lynched if she didn’t -– and right well it still sounds.

Instead of showbiz snippets, we get stories about Tesco, being a mum with two young sons in a double buggy and other trivia. The faithful fans present – and The Pheasantry was packed, as usual for her – love it but the cabaret polish to match her vocal skills is lacking.

We do get a mention of Ellis’ early days in Ipswich where it all started and she does refer to the encouragement she received from legendary Queen guitarist Brian May who has toured with her, but the linking material needs work.

There’s no question, however, that the artist can sing, although an up-tempo version of Sondheim’s ‘Losing My Mind’ was almost unrecognisable in an unusual arrangement by her composer-accompanist Craig Adams.

Ellis fares much better with Beatles classic ‘Ticket to Ride’ and two more pop songs, Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ (particularly good) and Goldfrapp’s ‘A&E’.

She kicks off the evening with a taster of the new musical Murder Ballad she will star in at the Arts Theatre at the end of September and rounds off the 80-minute set with ‘Feed the Birds’ from Mary Poppins and an all-join-in ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love With You’.

‘Feed the Birds’ is apparently the favourite record Walt Disney himself put on when he wanted something to calm him down. A good evening but one that could have been sharper and better structured.

Jeremy Chapman

Readers may also be interested in:

Wonderland UK tour – Wendi Peters, Kerry Ellis and Dave Willetts in cast – News

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