In the International Tour of CATS, Ella Kemp is playing Rumpleteazer alongside a cast including Liam Mower as Mistoffelees and Harry Robinson as Mungojerrie, with the tour having started in Zurich and currently running at the Deutsches Theater in Munich. For Ella’s first professional role and tour, she played Susan Waverley in last year’s production of White Christmas, having graduated from The Brighton Academy on their musical theatre course that summer. Whilst training, Ella performed in shows including Bring It On as Eva, Legally Blonde as Brooke and, for her final year production, she was dance captain for The Addams Family. We talked to Ella about touring internationally with CATS as Rumpleteazer, booking her first professional role as Susan Waverley in White Christmas and her time at The Brighton Academy.
You are playing the role of Rumpleteazer in the International Tour of CATS, what is the character like to play?
Rumpleteazer is such a fun character to get to play. Not only is she fun and mischievous but she’s also a curious kitten that adores the older cats, especially her partner in crime Mungojerrie. Getting to work alongside Harry Robinson as Mungo is always a laugh, we just have the best time. I love getting to play Rumple as she has so many different aspects of her personality that I get to explore and play with and overall she’s just a super fun kitten!
How are you finding the experience performing with CATS and working with the rest of the cast?
I’m loving every second of my CATS experience, I feel so lucky to be a part of this incredible cast. Not only are they all ridiculously talented but they all have huge hearts and are such a lovely bunch of people, I couldn’t have asked to work with a better cast and creative team. Getting to be a part of such an iconic and well-loved show is such a dream, I still have to pinch myself that I actually get to do this as my job.
What was the choreography like to learn and what did you enjoy most about rehearsing for the musical?
Learning the choreography was definitely one of the most challenging parts of the show for me. I don’t think there’s any other show that is so detailed and accurate. Every movement has a narrative which I think is one of the things that makes this show so special and unlike any other. I love the choreography, it explores so many different genres. My favourite numbers are probably the Gumbie Tap and The Jellicle Ball, they’re so different but both super fun! I do really love watching Liam Mower as Mistoffelees though, every time I get goosebumps.
Had you seen CATS before booking your role and was there anything that drew you to the production?
I never got to see a live production of CATS before doing the show myself, however, it was always something I had wanted to watch as my family had seen it and loved it! I had, however, watched lots of snippets on YouTube. I remember watching the White Cat solo at a young age and being mesmerised by how gorgeous it was, and now I get to see it live every night, it’s just amazing.
How is the run going so far and what are you looking forward to most for continuing your time touring internationally?
So far the show is going great. It took a while to find a routine as teching a show is always a fairly long process, we started the tour in Zurich, which is somewhere I’d never been before, and it’s such a gorgeous place, getting to explore the world whilst doing the job I love is something so surreal. It’s also a great excuse for my family and friends to go on holiday which they also love, haha. I can’t wait to get to perform in the other venues, just thinking about it gets me excited.
Last year, you booked your first professional role as Susan Waverley in the UK Tour of White Christmas, do you remember how you felt booking the role?
Finding out I booked White Christmas was honestly the best feeling. I remember my agent calling me whilst I was rehearsing for my third year musical and I was at college when I got the call. All of my friends and teachers were so happy and supportive. I still have the video footage of me and my friends telling my mum and I’m so happy that her reaction was recorded as it was hilarious, definitely one of my favourite videos on my camera roll. Susan was such a different character to Rumple but I love the fact I’ve had the privilege to take on both roles.
What was it like being part of the production and how did you find the experience touring for the first time?
White Christmas was such an amazing show! To be a part of such a fabulous team of cast and creatives such as Stephen Mear, Jo Morris, Ian Talbot and Neil McDonald, and I made friends for life whilst learning so much about the industry. I vividly remember in rehearsals watching Emily Langham and Dan Burton performing Best Things and thinking to myself ‘Wow, I’m actually working with these people, is this even real?’, it definitely took a while to sink in and actually believe I was there, ahaha. Going into a tour, I didn’t really know what to expect and, due to COVID restrictions, things were constantly adapting due to the pandemic. It was just when shows were starting to open again and I think the audience really appreciated the feeling of live theatre again, which made the experience even more special. I definitely learnt a lot from that tour that I’ve taken with me on CATS, it will always be a really special show to me.
Do you have any favourite memories from playing Susan and being part of White Christmas?
I have so many great memories of White Christmas! The first one that sticks in my mind is all of my friends coming to support me on our opening night, it was the best surprise seeing them all in the audience and getting to give them a huge hug afterwards, the support that all my friends and family gave me was such a highlight. Another time, we all went on a laser tag day out for Jess Daley’s (who played Betty Haynes) birthday and it was such a fun day, all the cast were involved and we probably got far too competitive but it was so much fun! I did, however, just love being on stage with everyone though, we had lots of giggles on stage, especially the fabulous Sally Ann Triplett, who played Martha, and Duncan Smith, who played the General, we had some real belly laughs in the wings which I still giggle about to the day.
You graduated from The Brighton Academy last year, was there anything that encouraged you to train there?
I did train at The Brighton Academy on the MT degree course. I decided to go at 16, my parents got me an audition and I went not particularly expecting to get in but was definitely hopeful. My family used to visit Brighton on holiday and saw the college advertised, I always knew I wanted to dance and couldn’t see myself doing anything else, so when they offered me a place, I knew I had to go!
How was your time at the academy and what was it like training during the pandemic?
TBA was a great place to train. With it being a smaller college, you definitely get a lot more one on one attention and they really push you to the best of your capability. I went there fairly shy and quiet as I had always been since a young age, however they encouraged confidence and made me feel I was there for a reason. I’m super thankful for all they have done for me and I definitely wouldn’t be the performer I am today without all of their help and encouragement, don’t get me wrong, musical theatre is hard, and there were days more difficult than others but I’m so grateful I had the chance to train there doing what I love. During the pandemic we didn’t miss a single class, obviously nobody liked dancing in their living room but they made the best of a bad situation and I still received all of my training. They continue to support my career and I’m just super grateful for them!
Can you tell us about some of the shows you performed in whilst training?
Whilst training, I was lucky to perform in many shows, in my first year I got to play the role of Eva in Bring It On, which was a training highlight. Bring It On is still, to this day, one of my dream musicals, the soundtrack is definitely a go-to of mine. I also played the role of Brooke in Legally Blonde during my third year musical, as COVID had stopped shows throughout my second year, the feeling of doing a show again was amazing. I was also dance captain for my final musical of The Addams Family, which was a great experience too!
When did you know you wanted a performing career and how did you get into it?
I first realised I wanted a career in performing when I was about 14. I never had any passion in anything else other than dancing and singing. And at school, saying you want to be a performer is hard, people assume you won’t succeed and ask for back up plans etc, but I knew that this is all I wanted to do.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
Ahhhh! I have so, so many favourite shows, it’s going to be difficult to choose, ahaha, I loved Bring It On, I watched with my best friends and wow, it was amazing! I also love Mary Poppins, I’ve seen it multiple times and every time I’m in absolute awe! Soundtrack-wise, I love Dear Evan Hansen and SIX, I’ve seen them both live and they definitely lived up to expectation, for sure! A show I’d love to catch soon is Legally Blonde and Bugsy Malone, both are favourites I’d love to watch.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I’m definitely a person who has to keep busy. In my time away from my career, I like to see friends and have a catch up, sometimes we like to be tourists for a day in London and do all the things we don’t do day to day which is super fun. Whilst on tour though, we like to plan lots for our days off or our one-show days so we get to experience the places we’re staying so usually like a nice meal out or we find a spa or go shopping, there’s always something to do! I also love some chill time though and think it’s super important, especially with how active performing is, I love putting on a face mask and binge-watching whatever series I’m currently watching, at the moment I love Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy.
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