INTERVIEW: Bringing the West End to Sunderland

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HERS is a CV which reads like a who’s who of theatre roles.

From Elphaba in Wicked and Meat in We Will Rock You to Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and Fantine in Les Misérables, Kerry Ellis has played them all with aplomb.

With a raft of roles, awards and a solo music career under her belt, it’s no wonder she’s known as the “First Lady of West End musicals.”

 She’ll be drawing upon her illustrious career as part of three-hander West End Women, which is heading to the region in Autumn.

The show also stars Joanna Ampil from Miss Saigon and Cats and Ria Jones from Les Misérables and Evita, and will take audiences on a journey through forty years of musicals including Miss Saigon, Les Misérables, Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and Wicked.

“What’s really interesting is that the three women are very different and diverse and, between us, we’ve had a lot of different roles. The songs are all from musicals that people love and enjoy, there’s something for everyone.

“It’s interesting what we all bring to the table, you would probably never normally see all three of us on a bill together,” said Kerry.

Ahead of touring with West End Women, Kerry is reprising a role which helped make her name.

For the next couple of months she’s donning Elphaba’s pointed hat in Wicked at its West End home, a role for which Kerry won the 2008 Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Takeover in a Role, before going on to play the witch on Broadway.

“It’s amazing, I’ve never gone back to a show before and never thought I would, but Wicked is such as different kind of show, it commands somebody that can take hold of it,” she 
said.

“It’s five years on now and I feel like I have more experience and knowledge that I can bring to the role.

“It’s only for a couple of months before I head out on my own tour.

“As soon as I got the script, it was like putting on an old glove, it all came flooding back to 
me.”

With so much experience in her field, it must be difficult for Kerry to choose a favourite role. Indeed, she says all have their own appeal.

“All of the roles are very personal, they take over your life for a period of time and they have to, you have to love that character,” she said.

“They’re all special in a way: My Fair Lady was my first West End role, We Will Rock You was my first creation of a role and Les Misérables was a childhood favourite.”

Such is Kerry’s success on the stage that it’s been a launch pad for her solo career. Her first major CD release was Wicked in Rock, a collaboration with Brian May, which is still flying high in the Dress Circle’s bestseller list.

This led to her being signed to Universal as a solo recording artist and her debut album Anthems was released in 2010, reaching No15 in the UK album chart while spawning hit record Defying Gravity.

Kerry manages to juggle her stage roles with her own solo releases and tours.

“It’s nice to have that freedom, you learn how to engage with the audience in a different way when it’s your own show and I can then bring that back to the theatre,” she said.

•West End Women is at Sunderland Empire on November 17. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office from £21 or from the Ticket Centre from £23.90 on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.