For Kerry Ellis, life is all about variety.
PUBLISHED: 11:13 18 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:13 18 August 2016
Suffolk-born West End star Kerry Ellis is spending summer recording a new album with Queen guitarist Brian May. But, as she tells Andrew Clarke, before that comes out she will be back on stage for the UK premiere of new musical
For Kerry Ellis, life at the moment spins from one extreme to another. One moment the Haughley-born West End star is on stage with rock legend Brian May, acknowledging a standing ovation at the end of another sell-out concert. The next she is changing the nappy of eight-month-old son Freddie, or collecting his three-year-old brother, Alfie, from play group.
“Life is non-stop at the moment,” laughs the star of Wicked, We Will Rock You and Oliver. “I seem to be always dashing from one thing to another, but that’s good. There’s plenty going on and that’s great. I get to take my boys with me to lots of places, they get to see the world from a young age and I still get to spend time with them.”
Earlier this year Kerry and Brian toured Italy and Eastern Europe with their One Voice show. Since they have been back, the pair have been in the studio laying down tracks for their third album together.“We’ve got seven tracks pretty much finished. Then in August we’ll go back and finish up the rest of the album and, hopefully, get it out sometime in the autumn to coincide with a British tour, which will take us to Christmas.”
But life is so busy for Kerry at the moment that the new album with Brian May isn’t the only thing on her agenda. In fact, what’s currently taking centre stage in her mind is her new West End show Murder Ballad.
For Kerry, variety very much is the spice of life. “I love having two strands to my career. It keeps things fresh and it means that I don’t get stuck doing one thing for too long. It also allows me flexibility, which is important when you are looking after two young boys.
“I love the fact that I can go from doing a concert tour to a show in the West End. It really is having the best of both worlds, and with this new show I get to put my own stamp on it and introduce something new to British audiences.”
What excites Kerry about Murder Ballad is that it is an intimate musical that behaves as if it is a play. To perform it properly the cast have to act the songs as well as sing them. Although it’s a sung-through musical, the show deals with emotions and subject matter more usually found in a play. When it was brought to Kerry’s attention she jumped at the chance to star in it.
“It’s a show that hardly anyone knows anything about and that’s the attraction,” she explains, with an excited edge to her voice. “After going back to Wicked and doing Cats at the Palladium last year everyone was asking me what I was doing next, and I felt that it was important that I do something new that no one had seen before.
“It’s never been staged in London before, although it did have a run off-Broadway a couple of years ago and was very successful, so for it to have a big opening in London is quite exciting.” Kerry will be joined on stage by Les Miserables and Love Never Dies star Ramin Karimloo, along with Norman Bowman and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt.
“I think we are all excited because it is something new for all of us. Sam Yates is directing and he has been given licence to do what he thinks is right for the show.
“We have been asked whether we are going to change the location of the story from New York to London. I don’t know until we get into rehearsals and see how it feels.” Kerry says the show is very raw.
“As performers we are very exposed – there’s no hiding. We’re very close to the audience. There are no big sets or layers of costumes to act as protection. It’s a very modern show – we look like ourselves and it’s an emotional story.
“It’s an intimate venue. I think it only holds 350 people and there is only four of us in the cast, so we are all going to be thrown together somewhat. It’s exciting, but also a little bit scary.”
Kerry says it’s one of the rare occasions when she has been called upon to play someone not too far removed from herself.
“It’s a very contemporary story and the characters are as normal as they get. It’s essentially a love triangle about a woman who had dreams of being a rock star. She had a relationship with a guy but it didn’t go anywhere. She gets married, has a child and, as her life settles down to school runs and the day to day, she dreams of reviving her music career. She makes contact with her old boyfriend, she has an affair and the whole thing goes horribly wrong.
“It’s a little bit like Sliding Doors in that it constantly asks the question, ‘What if?’ What would your life have been if you had followed this route, or stayed with this bloke? It’s a fascinating look at how people can influence people’s lives, and if you miss someone by five minutes and don’t make that connection, then how your life changes.”
The show opens on September 29 and runs until December 3. Fixed runs are becoming more popular in the West End because it makes shows more of an event.
“If you want to see something then you know you have to book tickets. It’s not going to be around forever. Lots of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows that were nominated for the Oliviers this year – Hangmen, People, Places and Things, The Father and Nell Gwynn – were all fixed run shows.
“Certainly that’s something that suits me because I’ve got a family and I need to plan. Also, I work with Brian and I love the variety in my life and career. These days I want to work on shows or projects that really interest me, that have something to say, because they take me away from my boys.
“If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing then I resent it because I could be at home with my children. I love the fact that it’s a contemporary story which many people will be able to relate to. It’s got a great score, which is a bit rocky, and I love the opportunity to actually originate a role in the West End. Plus, it’s always great to introduce audiences to a new show. It’s always great to go and see something that you haven’t seen before.”
Murder Ballad is at the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, off Covent Garden, from September 29 to December 3.