Thursday, 6 March 2014

Kerry Ellis At The Pheasantry

The Pheasantry, London


Almost a year since her last residency at The Pheasantry, Kerry Ellis, the musical theatre queen of her generation returned to the Kings Road for a three night stint. A packed venue sat adoringly as Ellis worked her way through a set list of classic film and showtunes, with just a sprinkling of Queen and paying particular homage to writers Don Black and Stephen Schwartz.

In recent years Ellis has famously worked closely with Brian May, who has fashioned an astounding harmony of her voice with his talent on guitar. But the intimacy of a cabaret venue demands a different arrangement and Ellis’ long time collaborator on piano and keyboards. Craig Adams has crafted some new takes on old favourites, that were masterfully played on the night by the man himself.

A medley of classic Bond numbers opened the show and in the Oscars weekend, Ellis' neat take on Adele's 2013 winner Skyfall set the tone for a collection of songs that was too have a gorgeously distinctive fidelity. Black's song cycle Tell Me On A Sunday furnished Ellis with a handful of numbers that gave rise to a refreshing moment and amidst that show’s current return to the West End, provided a long yearned for opportunity to hear the songs sung by a woman who is at round about the approximate age that they were written for. Her nods to Wicked were a magically mellow take on Defying Gravity along with I’m Not That Girl, the blockbuster show’s exquisite torch song.

Miss Ellis has been out crowd-funding to raise funds for a video production and one of the opportunities up for grabs had been the chance to sing live with the diva. Flame haired student Megan Yates had bid for this particular evening's slot and the 20 year old cut a fine impression duetting with Ellis and singing In His Eyes, a rarely heard number from Leslie Bricusse and Wildhorn’s Jekyll And Hyde.

With a career that has amassed plenty of anecdotal moments, her banter through the night hit the perfect tone. Sometimes revealing, always respectful and throughout, offering her audience a glimpse into the string of West End smash hits that have come to feature her name up on the marquee. 

Encoring with Alfie, touchingly devoted to her four month old, (who had of course graced this same stage last year, albeit in utero) her enchanting take on the Bacharach/David number was loaded with love for her son. A glorious evening of warmly familiar classics, sung to perfection.

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