Monday, 28 September 2015

Review: Kerry Ellis & Louise Dearman In Concert at the Prince Edward Theatre

Kerry Ellis & Louise Dearman In Concert 
Prince Edward Theatre
Reviewed on Sunday 27th September 2015

After meeting and training together at Laine Theatre Arts over twenty years ago, Kerry Ellis and Louise Dearman went their separate ways and became two of the biggest stars of musical theatre. Between them they have played some truly iconic roles, but both of their careers were changed for good after being cast in smash hit musical Wicked. Ellis was the first British actress to play Elphaba in the West End and on Broadway whilst Dearman became the first actress to have ever played both Glinda and Elphaba.

Despite staying in touch and supporting each other's careers, the pair had never had the chance to work together professionally, so decided it was about time they joined forces for a one-night-only concert. Taking to the West End's Price Edward Theatre - home of Miss Saigon - Ellis and Dearman provided a night to remember.

The pair made a sensational entrance, performing the opening lines of 'Defying Gravity' before launching into a medley of Rihanna's 'Diamonds' and Bond theme 'Diamonds Are Forever'. It was an unusual mix but Ellis and Dearman made it work, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. The duo had clearly worked extensively with musical director/arranger Craig Adams to put their unique spin on each and every song. 

Fans were treated to a rendition of Ellis and Dearman's recent promotional single 'Let Me Be Your Star' before they sang Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland's famous 'Get Happy/Happy Days' duet. This was one of the evening's strongest song selections; here Ellis and Dearman's smooth and effortless vocal tones complemented each other beautifully. 

The highlight of act one was 'Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better', which saw Ellis and Dearman lovingly making fun of each other's careers and the various roles they have and haven't played. It was utterly hilarious to see Dearman giving her best 'No One But You' growl and 'As Long As He Needs Me' cockney accent, whilst Ellis pranced around the stage shrieking out 'Popular' and had to be corrected by Dearman when attempting the famous 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' pose. 

"...together Kerry Ellis and Louise Dearman are a force to be reckoned with."

Act two kicked off with a feisty mash-up of Anastacia's 'I'm Outta Love', Carole King's '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman', Celine Dion's ‘Taking Chances’, Whitney Houston's ‘Queen Of The Night’ as well as Tina Turner's 'River Deep Mountain High' and 'Proud Mary'. It was an utter joy to see the leading ladies being joined side-by-side with backing vocalists Jennifer Tierney and Caroline Deverill. All four ladies fully let rip and seemed to be having the time of their lives.

A few solo numbers were also included in the set list. As well as giving a stunning rendition of 'Gone' it was thrilling to see Dearman perform the title track and 'Little Bird' from her second studio album Here Comes The Sun which, if you don’t already own, is an absolute must have. As well as being warm and funny throughout, Dearman's vocals were absolutely flawless - she was on fire!

Ellis - who is heavily pregnant - also pulled out some old favourites. She dedicated 'Alfie' to her family for supporting her throughout her pregnancy and later gave a tremendous rendition of 'Give Me Love' by Ed Sheeran. Finally Ellis performed a beautifully stripped back Katy Perry medley which exquisitely showed off the softer side of her vocal talents. Ellis is at home on stage, cackling her way through the evening.

As the second half began to conclude Ellis and Dearman sat at the piano and reminisced over the various songs they remember each other singing whilst at college. This was when the evening felt most at ease - the pair have superb chemistry and are absolutely hilarious when telling stories together. The section was rounded off with a duet they hadn't sung together since leaving college, 'In His Eyes' from Jekyll and Hyde. It was a very special moment which evoked a huge reaction from the audience.

Other highlights from the show included ‘I Know His So Well’, ‘I’m Not That Girl, ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ and ‘Chandelier’, during which Ellis and Dearman were joined onstage by some phenomenal dancers who added some spice to proceedings.

Closing with a touching rendition of 'For Good' from Wicked, the duo then returned to the stage to sing Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer's famous 70s duet 'No More Tears' (aka Enough Is Enough). The entire audience were brought to their feet as Ellis and Dearman invited their entire band (who were on point all night) to the front of the stage for a final bow.

For a one off concert, Ellis and Dearman put on quite a show! Unlike some one-night-only concerts I've seen recently, the sound levels were mostly spot on whilst the lighting design certainly added to the atmosphere and created some impressive moments. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Ellis and Dearman as a duo; I'm sure they've learnt a lot from their first performance together regarding what did and didn't work. With some further work and development they could be on to a winner!

Providing a glamorous evening packed full of powerhouse vocals, college banter and unexpected mash-ups, together Kerry Ellis and Louise Dearman are a force to be reckoned with.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Photo Credit: Darren Bell

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