This weekend sees Kerry Ellis take to the stage at London’s Kenwood House, for an open-air evening of music celebrating the work of George Gershwin. She found time to talk briefly about the legendary New York composer, as well as the city's more contemporary Scott Alan. We also talked about the legends that have influenced her in recent years, Queen's Brian May and the Royal Air Force's very own world class display team, The Red Arrows...
What was it that attracted you to doing an evening of Gershwin?
I have always enjoyed performing at outdoor summer events and the opportunity to sing some of these fabulous songs backed by a full orchestra was just too good to refuse. The rehearsals (in a line up hosted by Michael Ball and which includes Gina Beck) have been amazing and it’s a combination of fabulous songs sung by some amazing voices.
Tell me more about performing with Michael Ball.
Michael is the ultimate showbiz person. Kind and generous, yet always professional. I have known him for years, have been a guest on his show and we’ve been at the Oliviers together, yet we have never actually performed together on stage. This is a first and I am loving the experience.
What Gershwin songs are your favourite?
Summertime, which will be sung by Gina Beck, is probably my favourite song, but another number which I love is Embraceable You, that I am so looking forward to doing as a duet with Michael.
With you as a legendary Elphaba and Gina Beck currently appearing as Glinda, is there likely to be any sort of a Wicked feel to the evening?
Not exactly. The eras and musical styles are so far apart that there is not much room for a crossover, but its an interesting thought that Gershwin, who was writing words and music in the 20s and 30s may have had some modest influence upon Stephen Schwartz, who composed so much in the latter half of the 20th century.
Whilst many people will know you from Wicked or We Will Rock You, I was first drawn to your talent at the Royal Albert Hall's 2010 Festival of Remembrance when you sang Chess' Anthem, accompanied by Dr Brian May on guitar. Tell me more about that performance.
That Festival, on the night before Remembrance Sunday, was one of the most memorable moments of my career and I think it will stay with me forever. The enormous emotion and significance of the occasion, combined with the power of the song and Brian’s guitar work made for an unforgettable occasion.
That evening was to precede the launch of my Anthems album which we were to take on tour and marked 8 years of Brian and I having worked together. Only recently we performed our Acoustic By Candlelight tour and where once this legendary rock guitarist of frankly iconic status had been my mentor, we have now become professional partners.
I had the privilege of hearing you sing Scott Alan's Never Neverland at your Pheasantry gig in Chelsea earlier this year. Tell me more about that connection.
I first encountered Scott when he saw me performing on Broadway and asked me to sing Behind These Walls for his album Keys. Last year he asked me to sing Never Neverland at his Birdland concert, which was also released on his album Live. I think he is a beautifully talented writer, gifted in his ability to write songs for women.
I recently interviewed Scott whilst he was in town for his concert at the O2 and there is talk that his musical Home (that includes Never Neverland) may premiere in London. If that happens, would you like to be one of the four women who make up Home's cast?
If I was asked to and was able to, then without a doubt, I would love to be involved with the show. There is a real buzz in the air at the moment about Scott's work that is very exciting.
Finally, and even asking this question makes me insanely jealous, what was it like to fly with the Red Arrows?
It was amazing. I still pinch myself that it happened. It's the ultimate thrill ride, performed by some simply amazingly brave and talented guys and I can't believe they even let me "drive" the plane too! It was a bucket list experience and an absolute privilege to be allowed into a Red Arrows cockpit. I love those guys!
Kerry can be seen in Summertime - An Evening Of Gershwin at Kenwood House this Sunday September 1st, at 5pm
Visit www.LiveByTheLake.co.uk for details and tickets.