Wednesday, May 2, 2012

'Friday Night Is Music Night' with Kerry Ellis

I don't know if I have mentioned this in my blog before but Kerry Ellis is by far one of my favourite singers. Musical theatre is where she started her career and playing the role of Elphaba in Wicked both in the West End and on Broadway was her big breakthrough. She is also famous for playing Nancy in Oliver!, Meat in We Will Rock You and  Svetlana in the concert version of Chess at the Royal Albert Hall amongst others. She has become noticed by the general audience also as a result of collaborating with legendary Queen guitarist, Brian May, who played on and produced her solo album, Anthems

Friday Night Is Music Night at Watford Colosseum, Watford
On 20th April 2012 at 20:00
Organised and broadcast live by BBC Radio 2
Seat: Stalls right, 3rd row
Performer: Kerry Ellis
Guests: Ramin Karimloo, Jonathan Ansell, Brian May

The last time I've been to a show that was broadcast live was the ABBA tribute concert in Hyde Park in 2009 I seem to remember (incidentally Kerry sang a song there as well). That went live on both radio and TV. Anyway, both times have been awesome already due to the fact that the audience really gets into the show. One of the worst things I know in the theatre is a boring and quiet audience so I really enjoyed this concert. The auditorium was completely full as well. Only when we actually sat down did I realise how good seats we actually had. 

Kerry was the main performer of the night singing a bunch of songs mostly famous from musical theatre. I've seen Kerry perform live twice before. Apart from that time in Hyde Park, I saw her on her Anthems tour last year. What I like about seeing Kerry do solo stuff live is that she never pretends to be anything aside from herself (and she seems like a lovely person). She doesn't need to. She only needs to open her mouth and start singing and she will have the audience listening. 

I had never heard this song before but it was one of my favourite songs of the evening: 

After the orchestra (they had a full orchestra on stage) had blasted out an instrumental medley including Wicked, 9 to 5 and My Fair Lady, Kerry came on and opened the concert with Don't Rain On My Parade from Funny Girl. It was great to hear her sing again and, above all, to see her perform so close-up.

Some other songs sung by Kerry over the course of the evening:
  • I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady (new arrangement)
  • Cabaret from Cabaret
  • Defying Gravity from Wicked (new arrangement)
  • Love of My Life
  • Born Free
  • 9 to 5 from 9 to 5
  • Lady is a Tramp from Babes in Arms
  • Rock-A-Bye Your Baby

Because I know I have lots of Wicked fans reading this blog, here is the Defying Gravity Kerry performed on the night. Personally I didn't like this arrangement that much because I think this song needs much more guts but that put aside, Kerry does a beautiful job out of it: 

Ramin performed two songs from his new album as well as a duet, Somewhere from West Side Story with Kerry. Ramin is also one of my favourite musical theatre performers. He has such a fantastic voice, too perfect for Phantom. So when he sang "Hold my hand..." I was thinking in my head "Kerry, don't do it! He's the Phantom!". From where I was sitting you couldn't hear all of Kerry's high notes in the song that well, her voice is quite breathy generally and obviously she isn't a soprano, but in this audio I found the whole song is fine actually (and the song itself goes on forever, doesn't it...!): 

Jonathan Ansell I had never actually heard of before but his rendition of Anthem from Chess was one of the highlights of the evening. It was definitely one of the best versions I have heard and the final note was just "Wow". Kerry picked it up and said, kind of in passing "I don't do that on my album". The way she said it made everyone laugh.
Jonathan also sang a classical piece and a duet with Kerry: Come What May from (I'm sure you all know where) Moulin Rouge. Kerry sang this with Alfie Boe on his album and I was half expecting Alfie to come on stage but Jonathan did a great job of the song as well.

I had absolutely no idea Brian May was going to be there. I spotted his distinctive hair by the side of the stage when the previous song was reaching its end and I had to keep myself from bouncing up and down. I had seen the pair of them perform together on the Anthems tour and, well, you can imagine it was incredible. The audience was treated to Save Me and No One But You: Kerry blew the roof belting them out. One could just tell she was comfortable singing these songs, it's peculiar how confidence can shine through like that. 

So a very enjoyable evening overall, it was great hearing Kerry live again. And of course we are all waiting for a second solo album from her...

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