Kings Theatre, Portsmouth – Thursday 8th February 2023
Reviewed by Sally Lumley
For one night only, showbiz royalty arrived in Portsmouth last night as Kerry Ellis and Louise Dearman took to the stage at the Kings theatre in A Wicked Night. This was a stripped back showcase of exceptional talent, with some stories and laughs along the way.
Both singers are leading ladies in their own right: on the West End, with numerous studio albums and as established concert performers. However, what might not be so well known is that they first met back in college 30 years ago and have remained friends ever since. The relaxed mood, with chat show style interviews led by the Kings Theatre artistic director Jack Edwards peppered throughout, allowed the audience to gain some personal insights from both performers about both their careers and their friendship. Each song was given a little extra poignancy, as we heard why it was chosen. Some particularly touching moments were when Louise Dearman sang Rainbow Connection from the Muppets, which she had recorded on an album of lullabies after her daughter was born, and Kerry Ellis giving a beautiful rendition of Alfie, a song that shares the name of her first born. They shared some of the challenges of a career in music, such as auditions, and juggling performing with motherhood, as well as some career highlights that included performing in front of the Royal Family, on international tours, and at the recent Festival of Remembrance.
With musical director Craig Adams accompanying the singers on grand piano, and minimal staging, it gave space for the vocals to shine. And wow, they sure did shine! This truly was a masterclass, showing exactly why both women have achieved such success. With a mix of solos and duets, and songs from musicals to Cilla Black, there was something for everyone. Using local choirs – the Resonate Show Choir and the Kings Theatre Arts Academy Choir – for some of the numbers added an extra dimension, with the young soloists bringing a lump to everyone’s throat in You Will Be Found. Particular highlights for me were the Garland/Babs medley and of course hearing Defying Gravity sung by not one, but two Elphabas was a real treat!
Kudos to Kings Theatre for having the vision to bring this show to Portsmouth. As was pointed out, it’s not every day we get two West End leading ladies in this neck of the woods. Judging by the reception last night, there is certainly an audience for more of the same. It felt like a treat to be included in what felt like a special night, where a genuine friendship and a love of performing shone through.