PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Michael Ball

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Michael Ball
 
Stage and recording star Michael Ball, currently producing the new musical Love Story in the West End, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire with random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Michael Ball
Michael Ball Photo by Ken McKay

Ball originated the role of Marius in the London production of Les Miserables, reprising his performance on the Complete Symphonic Recording and as a member of the 10th Anniversary Dream Cast.

Other London stage credits include Alex in the original Aspects of Love, Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Giorgio in Stephen Sondheim's Passion, Count Fosco in Woman in White and Edna in Hairspray, for which he won an Olivier Award. He reprised his performances in Aspects of Love and Woman in White on Broadway.

Ball has toured extensively as a solo concert artist, releasing over a dozen albums and several DVD's. He has also worked as a television presenter in the UK, recently finishing the first season of "The Michael Ball Show" for ITV.

Full given name: Michael Ball
Hometown: London
Zodiac Sign: Cancer
Special skills: Singing, acting, interviewing
Skill/talent you wish you had or were better at: Cooking!
First West End show you ever saw:

The first West End show I saw was Jesus Christ Superstar at the Cambridge Theatre in London in the mid 1970s; I was probably about 12 or 13 at the time. I was completely enthralled by the show – it was such a momentous experience that I decided then and there that I wanted to be involved in musical theatre! I’d always loved music and theatre and from that moment on I decided I couldn’t even think about doing anything else… I’m rather relieved it all worked out!

If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? Gypsy is one of my favourite musicals of all time. I’ve seen Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and Bette Midler in the lead roles, and of course I’ve seen the movie with Rosalind Russell.

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But if I could go back in time it would definitely be to 1959 when the great Ethel Merman starred as Rose and Jack Klugman was Herbie. That production was nominated for eight Tony awards but didn’t win any – isn’t that extraordinary!

Current show you have been recommending to friends:

In the West End there are some wonderful shows – I tell everyone to go and see the brilliant Warhorse at the New London before Steven Spielberg’s film comes out. It’s simply genius theatre based on the celebrated novel by Michael Morpurgo. Also Ghost Stories at the Duke of York’s, a truly scary, thrilling piece of dramatic entertainment. The long-running Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward is hugely entertaining and features all those great songs made famous by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons and, depending when you’re publishing this, I’m co-producing the West End transfer (from Chichester) of Love Story at the Duchess. It’s a must!

If I were to visit New York over the next couple of months, I’d be very interested in seeing Al Pacino in The Merchant Of Venice and our very own Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) in the revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.

Favorite showtune of all time: My favourite song is "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s an incredibly powerful, huge song (written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice) and I absolutely love singing it onstage when I’m on tour.
Some favorite musicals:

Hairspray! I first saw it on Broadway with Harvey Fierstein who was absolutely incredible in the role of Edna Turnblad. I just sat there loving the entire production thinking, I’d love to do that role, but I’m sure no one will ever ask me… then they did! I’ve had the best time of my life playing Edna Turnblad – I love that woman! And I love everything about the show, so it’s right up there on the top of my list.

Other favourite musicals – pretty much anything by Stephen Sondheim: Gypsy, Follies, A Little Night Music (in which Judi Dench was superb at the National), and of course Sweeney Todd, which I would love to do myself.

Sondheim’s a genius; he writes incredible music, the most intelligent, clever lyrics of all time and frankly, if you’re privileged enough to work with him, it’s like sitting at the feet of the master.

All-time favorite albums (any genre): One of two Joni Mitchell albums – either "Blue" or "Court & Spark." I love them both. They’re brilliant and feature insightful lyrics and fresh melodies. Her voice was at its purest on both albums – I still listen to them all the time.
Performer you would drop everything to go see:

I wish I could say Frank Sinatra! He remains, for me, the quintessential singer – with that voice and his unique delivery, I think his standard remains untouched. But he’s not with us any more so I think it would have to be Bette Midler because she’s fabulous AND funny.

MAC or PC? PC
Most played song on your iPod: Supertramp’s "If Everyone Was Listening." The lyrics have always meant a lot to me: “The actors and jesters are here/the stage is in darkness and clear/for raising the curtain/and no one’s quite certain whose play it is.”
Most-visited websites: I haven’t got time!!
Last book you read: I’m a massive fan of the thriller writer Jeffery Deaver and have just read his brilliant new novel, "The Burning Wire." It’s classic Deaver, a taut, psychological thriller with twists and turns that keep you guessing till the very end.
Last good movie you saw:

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" I loved the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson and thought the first film was excellent. I’ll be interested to see the American version starring Daniel Craig, which is being directed by David Fincher.

Some films you consider classics: Woody Allen’s "Bullets Over Broadway" is my favourite film of all time. I just love it. It’s funny, witty and it boasts superb performances by a great cast including John Cusack and Dianne Wiest. I love that it cocks a snook at actors and the pretentiousness about putting on a new play.
Must-see TV shows:

I love a lot of the American shows: "Lost" (I’m lost without it actually, now it’s finished!)
"Prison Break"
"24"
"Heroes"
"Flash Forward"

Pop-culture guilty pleasure:

Well it’s more about old TV programmes because I love a bit of a rerun. I recently watched the entire run of the ancient British television comedy "On The Buses." It was fantastic! Plus I’ve got whole series of "Morecambe and Wise," "The Avengers" (with Joanna Lumley of course) and "The Champions" to watch… when I get a minute to myself!

Favorite cities: London, New York, Sydney
First CD/Tape/LP you owned:

"The Morning After" by Maureen McGovern. It was the theme to "The Poseidon Adventure" and in the film it’s sung (or rather mimed) by the actress Carol Lynley who plays a blind cabaret artist on board the ship. I was about 9 or 10 at the time, living in South Africa, and thought the film was the greatest thing I’d ever seen in my life so I just had to buy the theme tune.

First stage kiss: I’m not sure about the first one but the first memorable one was with Mel Smith when he was playing Wilbur Turnblad to my Edna in the West End production of Hairspray – let’s say he’s a slobberer!!
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: I was with the Surrey Youth Theatre group when I was a kid; I loved nothing more than either standing in the middle of the stage singing or swinging a sword around in the manner of Errol Flynn!!
How you got your Equity card: When I was just out of my teens, I was lucky enugh to be spotted by Cameron Mackintosh when I was in a production of Pirates of Penzance. Cameron subsequently invited me to join the cast of Les Miserables when it opened in London in 1985.
Favorite pre-show/post-show meal:

I like chicken and pasta for my pre-show meal. It’s the classic slow-release carb meal and keeps me going for the whole show. Post-show: I tend not to eat that much after a show; I’d rather have a glass of wine!

Favorite liquid refreshment: I’m a big fan of New Zealand wine. I love the occasional pint of English beer, and of course I couldn’t get through the day without a large cappuccino and regular cups of tea.
Pre-performance rituals or warm-ups:

When I’m on tour in Hairspray, we all gather onstage after lunch for a warmup and a gossip – I like to keep up with what everyone’s been doing! The ‘kids’ turn up in skintight dance outfits, I turn up in my favourite old sweat pants and they do incredible, energetic warm up routines while I jump up and down a bit and practice some vocal exercises. It’s well worth it, definitely gets you in the mood for the evening’s performance.

Most unpleasant or unappealing costume ever: Neither yet but I’ve worn a very uncomfortable fat suit twice now – once as the revoltingly fabulous Count Fosco in Woman in White and again, as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray where the enormous boobs alone weigh about two kgs each!!
Who would play you in the movie? Johnny Depp of course!
Leading man role you've been dying to play Actually I’d love to play Sweeney Todd, and I’m hoping that dream will become a reality in the next couple of years.
Your single most moving or memorable moment onstage:

Performing for the Queen at Windsor Castle in the 20th anniversary concert of Les Miserables. Also, singing the Welsh national anthem on the pitch at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium with 75,000 voices joining in. That was the most thrilling experience I’ve ever had singing live in front of an audience.

Three things you can't live without: Passport, iPod, moisturizer
Words of wisdom for aspiring performers?

Just keep on trying. There’s lots of work out there and although there’s fierce competition, I truly believe that talent will rise to the surface. You’ve got to work extremely hard and be aware of what’s going on, know your strengths, keep a look out for auditions and make sure your CV’s up to date with a great photo.

It’s also good to go and see as many shows as possible. There’s a theatre in every town so make sure you’re up to date with what’s showing locally – and go to the West End [or Broadway] if you can, to check out what’s happening so that you know what producers are looking for.

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