Podcast: CATS Chat With Leslie Ellis & Matt Zarley

Matt Zarley and Leslie Ellis

As a young actor, my first big break was being cast as the ‘Magical Mr. Mistoffelees’ in a brand new national touring company of the blockbuster Broadway musical CATS.

While I was ‘living a dream’ over those years back in the 1980s, a nightmare called HIV/AIDS was taking thousands of lives from us. As a company, we wanted to do ‘something.’

So in 1987, we organized one of the first large-scale benefits performances by a touring company to help those affected by HIV. Amazingly, we raised over $36K in one night.

Fast forward to today, and another viral pandemic is here. A few months ago, one of my former CATS castmates reached out to say, “Anyone want to do another fundraiser?”

And so, we did.


“With Love, Now and Forever! Cats4CovidRelief” premiered on October 23 and will be available until October 28. At this writing, combining donations at Broadway Cares and YouTube, we’ve raised over $20,000 and counting

Today, I’m talking to two of my closest CATS castmates, Grammy Award-winner Leslie Ellis and two-time OutMusic Award-winner Matt Zarley, about this recent company reunion.

Hit the play button to hear us chat on this recent collaboration, reminisce about life on the road as young actors, and laugh a bit about the life-changing experience that was CATS.

While our streaming event is scheduled to be removed from Broadway Cares website at the end of October 28, the video is still up at this writing on BC/EFA’s YouTube channel on an unlisted page here.

Plus, you can see Matt’s gorgeous segment featuring Leslie singing “Memory” here.

News Round-Up: January 30, 2019

• InstaHunk Matthew Camp (above) is giving you 'polar vortex/winter tones' on this Hump Day.
Matthew Camp (via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

• InstaHunk Matthew Camp (above) is giving you ‘polar vortex/winter tones’ on this Hump Day.

• Inspired by the unofficial Gay Days events at Disneyland and Disney World in the US, Disneyland Paris will host its first official Pride event, titled Magical Pride, on June 1.

• Lawyers for Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin say that former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis must pay the $225,000 in legal fees owed to the gay couples who sued her for refusing to issue marriage licenses.

Kim Davis

• White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network today that she believes God wanted Donald Trump to become president.

• Four middle school kids in North Carolina face felony charges after plans were discovered to attempt a ‘Columbine-style’ attack on fellow students and a teacher.

• I got the most delightful surprise when the fabulous Leslie Ellis called me up just to say ‘hi’ last night.

She and her uber-talented hubby, Casey Kelly, had watched the RENT Live event on Sunday night and it reminded her of her own Broadway days (we did the national company of CATS together in the 80s when she stopped the show every night with her performance of “Memory”).

Long story short: old-friends, chatting, laughs, sharing, long call – it was great 🙂

In any case, it made me long to her her gorgeous voice, so I’m sharing this with you, one of my favorite recordings of hers, “We Came Close.”

Click here for more info about the talented duo.

Exclusive: Kelly&Ellis “Who Am I To Judge?”

Stop, drop and scroll down to listen to this exclusive preview of “Who Am I To Judge?” from new acoustic duo, Kelly&Ellis.

The song, from Casey Kelly and Leslie Ellis’ upcoming album The Long Road to You, is like a musical love-child of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Brian Wilson. The hooky melody is a perfect dance partner for the independent-minded lyrics:

Religious right, or wrong?
Serious art, or porn?
And as for same-sex bride and groom
Is it anybody’s business who does what with whom?

Who am I to judge?
Who am I to say what anybody does?
If it works for them, then I’m asking you my friend,
Who am I to judge?

A bit about how these two rambled and roamed down The Long Road to You:

After graduating from the prestigious Carnegie-Mellon University with a degree in acting and music, Leslie Ellis journeyed from Broadway (City of Angels, Cats, Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber) to Berkley to Nashville, picking up a Grammy Award along the way for her vocal contributions to Celine Dion mega-hit “My Heart Will Go On.”

Casey Kelly’s college years were spent opening arena concerts for major artists; a stint writing at the hit making factories at 1650 Broadway and the Brill Building; touring with Loggins & Messina, The Beach Boys and BB King; and writing hit songs (Grammy nominated #1 “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight” recorded by Kenny Rogers & Dottie West, George Strait staple “The Cowboy Rides Away,” Tanya Tucker’s “Soon”).

So, at this point, it’s pretty clear we’re swimming in deep waters 🙂

Thematically, this collection of songs frames the duo’s well-travelled talents as the diverse ingredients they are. Americana, Celtic, R&B, Broadway, pop and country meld effortlessly allowing Kelly&Ellis to lay claim to their own unique musical space, proving that artful songwriting and musical talent is always a recipe for success.

Among the winning new works, “I Just Don’t Understand It,” “An Ordinary Day,” and “(I Ain’t Just) A Pretty Face” are highlights showcasing range as well unmistakeable chemistry.

In addition to the craft and skill on display here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that  Leslie Ellis’ voice is easily one of my favorite musical instruments in the world. And throughout the album’s thirteen tracks, Kelly’s genius guitar work is undeniable.

Along with new songs, both artists re-visit and re-invent past musical triumphs. Ellis’ lithe vocals take flight over a steady, earthy drum beat on “My Heart Will Go On,” while she folds her country years back into a luscious and rich renewal of “Memory” from her Cats days. Check the intimate duet between Ellis and Casey’s guitar at the “If you touch me” 4:05 mark. That’s art, kids.

Kelly’s take on “The Cowboy Rides Away” reveals a life well-lived with a vocal that feels as warm and comfortable as my favorite 20 year old cowboy boots; and the duo’s teaming on “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight” bounces and beams with sass for days.

The Long Road to You drops this Friday, but you can pre-order on iTunes here, or click over to the Kelly&Ellis official site for those who like a CD you can hold in your hands.

Follow Kelly&Ellis on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

Leslie Ellis on The Candi & Randy Show

Listen to internet radio with CandiXRandy on Blog Talk Radio

Grammy Award winning vocalist Leslie Ellis joined us on The Candi & Randy Show to talk about life as a working singer/songwriter in “music city” – Nashville.

Through her career Leslie has sung with many artists including Celine Dion on “My Heart will Go On” – from the movie “Titanic” (for which Leslie won the Grammy) and Thomas Dolby on his latest album “Forty” (featured on “Hyperactive”). She sang the original soundtrack song, “Six Times Around the Sun” for the CBS mini-series, “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town.” Four of Leslie’s original songs appeared in the musical “Cowboy Cafe” and were performed live at the show’s premiere in North Carolina.

Her self penned “Flyer Song” was adopted by the US Navy and made into a video as a tribute to the troops and their families. She’s also written songs that were recorded by The Bellamy Brothers and NYC based recording artist David Ippolito.

As an actress, Leslie has appeared on television and the Broadway stage – CATS, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and CITY OF ANGELS.

In 2007, she starred in an independent film called, “My Name Is Wallace” which was invited to the Cannes Film Festival; and in 2009 appeared in “The New, True Charlie Wu” as Eudiamonia.

Throw into the mix that she’s developing a new cooking show and you have a real achiever with a great amount of charm.

More info about the fantastic Leslie Ellis at www.LeslieEllis.com

NASHVILLE: Great music! Leslie Ellis and more!

This is a Benefit for Todd Cerney who is battling Melanoma. In addition to the amazing Leslie Ellis, the show features Thom Shepherd, “Restless Heart”, Steve Holy and Ty Herndon as well as a huge cast of writers and performers…including Todd himself!

Here’s the link to the jamboree! Go! Enjoy!

Red Rooster Bar and Music Hall – Feb 28 – Door open at 6pm.

Red Rooster Bar and Music Hall
Address: 1530 Demonbreun St Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-457-2781
Directions: Exit 40W onto Demonbreun St. and turn left.
About a block down on the right.
Look for the big Red Rooster!