As Kerry Ellis prepares to take over the iconic role of Grizabella in Cats at The London Palladium, theatre fans are understandably clamouring for tickets. And who could blame them? Highly anticipated, this run of the classic show comes 12 years since it was last seen in London and the reviews from audience members and critics alike would suggest this production has lived up to its promise.
What Kerry Ellis brings to the show – that is, when she takes over the role from pop superstar Nicole Scherzinger in February – is a wealth of West End experience and her own massive following and fan base. Is Ellis our generation’s Elaine Paige? In lots of ways, she is.
Taking on Grizabella at the age of 35, Ellis is a couple of years older than Paige was when she originated the role in 1981. Stepping into the shoes of a big star, Ellis will have to match up to the obvious vocal talents of Scherzinger. But this shouldn’t be a big problem for her, having taken over the role of Elphaba in Wicked from none other than Idina Menzel. It’s perhaps also a good omen that Paige had to step into the role of Grizabella late on too, replacing acting legend Judi Dench when she suffered a torn Achilles tendon during the rehearsal process.
Best known for her role in Wicked, Kerry Ellis collectively spent over two and a half years in the role of Elphaba – both in the West End and on Broadway – and was the first actress to transfer from the London production to New York. Having originated a role of her own (Meat in popular Queen musical We Will Rock You), Ellis has also gone on to star in top London shows such as Les Misérables and Oliver!
Critically-acclaimed performances abound, her CV reads a lot like Paige’s; memorable performances in a handful of musicals (Evita, Chess, Sunset Boulevard) establishing a star whose career transcends the West End. Loyal fans Ellis charmed in Wicked, and won over in We Will Rock You are undoubtedly the same people that made her solo concert tour a sell-out and took her debut album Anthems right up the UK album chart.
Of all the performances of the role and its signature tune ‘Memory’, Paige’s is indelible. For decades she has remained the person most associated with Cats and the show in turn sealed her star status – though she was already an established, Olivier-winning actress, Grizabella made Paige a theatre legend, still referred to as ‘The First Lady of British Musical Theatre’.
Could the role do the same for Kerry Ellis? We think it could, but you’ll just have to see it and find out!
Planning to see Cats at The London Palladium? Remember Elaine Paige’s performance in the role? Tell us about it in the comments section below!