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Kerry Ellis & Brian May (Photo by Francyne Carr)

Kerry Ellis may not be a household name in the U.S., but she certainly is in the United Kingdom, especially among those who follow musical theater.  Ellis is an extremely popular singer and London stage actress who has starred in West End productions of My Fair Lady, We Will Rock You, Les Miserables and, currently, a revival of Oliver!  However, her most critically acclaimed performance to date has been in the role of Elphaba in both the West End and Broadway productions of Wicked.  The role of Elphaba was originated in New York and London by Idina Menzel, but Ellis took over as Elphaba in the West End production after three months when Menzel made her pre-planned departure from the show.  From June through November of 2008, Ellis played Elphaba on Broadway at the Gershwin Theatre.  

Kerry Ellis has just released Anthems, her debut studio album which was produced by legendary Queen guitarist Brian May.  May saw Ellis perform in My Fair Lady and recruited her into a starring role in We Will Rock You, a musical based on Queen songs and written by Ben Elton in collaboration with May and Queen drummer Roger Taylor. 

Anthems contains a couple of songs from Wicked (“Defying Gravity” and “I’m Not That Girl”), a few Brian May/Queen compositions, and other show tunes.  Among the latter is the song “Anthem” from the mid-80s musical Chess which featured lyrics written by Tim Rice and music composed by ABBA members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson.  The storyline of Chess revolves around two dueling grandmasters of chess from the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the height of the Cold War.  The Soviet player sings “Anthem” at the end of Act I as he contemplates defection to the West.  The song powerfully expresses his devotion to his Russian motherland, but the message of the song should strike an emotional chord with patriots from any nation. 

Ellis’ performance of “Anthem” (click the title below to listen) highlights her clear, powerful voice and includes a classic, distinctive guitar solo from Brian May playing his famous Red Special. 


No man, no madness
Though their sad power may prevail
Can possess, conquer, my country’s heart
They rise to fail

She is eternal
Long before nations’ lines were drawn
When no flags flew, when no armies stood
My land was born

And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair
She is the constant
We who don’t care

And you wonder will I leave her – but how?
I cross over borders but I’m still there now

How can I leave her?
Where would I start? 
Let man’s petty nations tear themselves apart 
My land’s only borders lie around my heart 

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September 2010