There's no point pretending that I am unbiased in writing this review because you all know that I have personal connections with some of the people in last night's concert so getting all Shentonesque is pointless.
I hope, however, that you know me well enough by now to know that if there was something I didn't like then I wouldn't be afraid to tell those involved directly as well as on here.
So. Where to start? How about the beginning?
Out on stage walks 'WOMAN the band' formed of Mazz and Gina Murray and Emma Kershaw. All three are class acts in their own right, as I'm sure I don't need to tell any of you lot, but if you haven't seen WOMAN and are expecting some kind of West End flavour then you'd better strap something absorbent on and lean against a friend. WOMAN are all about tight close rocking harmony and a re-arrangement of popular songs you probably wouldn't expect, even including Michael Jackson's 'Leave Me Alone', in a way that sounds to me like contemporary country music from an acoustic rock trio.
They are accompanied on stage by two guitarists but all three of them play all manner of ever decreasing guitars which they swing about themselves and Emma rocks a violin in a way that suggests the Devil might want to stay in Georgia if he knows what's good for him.
WOMAN were fantastic. Engaging, hugely talented and funny. Their unashamed 'girl power' seeps through every chord and, while I had to fight the feeling that I was the poor male sap who'd gatecrashed Boudicca's hen party and would be leaving with a clutch bag where his scrotum used to be, I can't wait to see them perform again.
After WOMAN we were allowed a quick ten minutes for all the men to gather in the gents and talk about football till our voices dropped again, and then it was the main event.
Kerry's voice has never sounded better and the arrangements by Craig Adams were crafted of real artistry and passion. She was joined by quite a large band on stage as well as being backed vocally by my wife, the hypnotically soulful and downright fantastic Caroline Deverill, and Jennifer Tierney who possesses one of the purest voices I have ever heard. Between them and Craig's orchestration and conducting, they made the perfect foundation for Kerry and her incredible talent to stand on and shine like a lighthouse.
The music opened with a medley of Bond songs. Now I'm not a fan of medleys. They're often clunky and stitched together in a way that makes Dr Frankenstein look like McSteamy [if you don't know who he is then just ignore this bit, I can't be bothered explaining, he's basically a really talented plastic surgeon... get it?] But when the medley in question is arranged with such a fresh ear and a real sense of composition and sung with such joy and depth, it becomes a little journey of discovery that Kerry takes the audience on with a glint in her eye and a real zest for the material.
The same can be said for a medley of Michael Jackson songs that came later- I know! Michael Jackson by Kerry Ellis? Whatever next?
It was a real surprise and when, at the end, the entire 60 piece choir of the Arts Educational School of London appeared on stage and amongst the audience, along the aisles, there was not only a wonderful atmosphere created by director Steven Paling but a sense that we were in the middle of something very different indeed.
On a personal note I have to say that I cried a little when Kerry sat to perform one of the most beautiful song combinations I've ever heard. When I saw her intimate show at the Hippodrome, Craig had helped Kerry put together a "I could have danced all night" and "on a street where you live" from My fair lady (like you didn't know!) and it was totally engrossing. Last night it was better still. The pacing and the harmonies were cutting-edge, unique even, but the emotion and the sentiment was as timeless as the songs themselves. Every word, every pause and every note was constructed to have you holding your breath and fighting the urge to fall instantly in love and cry at the same time.
I think that Kerry's ability to hold an audience in what seems such a personal space, as if we're eavesdropping on a love letter, is testament to why she's such a genuine star. Her voice at times like these is an instrument like the purest note on a violin, but it's singing words that feel like a spoken confession of true love and I really don't know of any other performer that does that so well.
... hang on... I've got something in my eye... anyone see the footie at the weekend? AHEM! That's better, where was I?
Contrast that stillness with the genuine rock concert feel of, amongst others, "crazy little thing called love" accompanied by the legendary Brian May and one of the best written songs of recent times, Ed Sheeran's "Give me love", done in a way that makes your soul tingle as the backing vocals and driving arrangement take you higher and higher into an almost tribal raw emotion that ended with that huge choir and everyone in the audience unashamedly chanting to the gods with Kerry at the wheel. Now you have an idea of the depth and versatility that this performer is capable of.
In the end, when even the slightly deranged fan sitting behind me had been moved to stop shouting 'defying gravity' at random intervals, she pulled it out of the bag.
Kerry was joined on stage by three other Elphabas (driven in on an Elphabus I can only assume) Alexia Khadime, Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman stood alongside Kerry for a performance of the song that must have had the Wicked fans defying a little gravity themselves in excitement.
Personally, I'm not such a Wicked fan. I saw Kerry perform it on Broadway and loved it but her singing is, now more than ever, about her connection with a wider audience and, more importantly, its about her. The finale was her new single due for release soon. A modern, pacey, incredibly catchy number that she wrote with Brian May called 'The Kissing Me Song' it's got a touch of the Katy Perry about it but its funky as all get out as well.
While she will always owe a lot to musical theatre and the support of Brian May and others. Kerry, last night, appeared as a star in her own right. She commanded the stage and spoke to the audience through her singing and her performance and it was clear that this incredible talent has come a long way from where she began. What I felt in the theatre last night wasn't a sense I'd seen my favorite show tunes but that I was at a major concert from a headline act that could stand shoulder to shoulder with any of the biggest names in music today. As I stood 'waving arm to waving arm' with a spell-bound audience I got the warmest feeling that we weren't in Kansas anymore.Suggest a correction