Spotlight on

Michael Ball

Michael Ball, Britain's leading musical star, has starred on Broadway and dominated the marquees on many of the leading West End shows for more than two decades. A proven and varied talent, Michael won acclaim and the hearts of the public with his numerous performances on stage, film and television. All Michael's twelve solo albums have held commanding positions in the UK charts, all rapidly going gold within weeks of their release. In July 1999 Michael was presented with the Theatregoers Club of Great Britain's award for Most Popular Musical Actor over the last 21 years.
Born Michael Ashley Ball on June 27th, 1962 near Stratford-upon-Avon, he showed an early talent for the theatre. He studied drama at the Guildford School of Acting, from which he graduated in 1984. At that time singing was a hobby for the young actor, not a career goal. But it was in musicals, not dramas, that Ball found his first opportunity. His theatrical debut was a 1984 production of Godspell, which Ball opened as the character of John the Baptist/Judas.
Michael went on to play Frederic in a regional production of The Pirates of Penzance, a role that brought him to the attention of the producer Cameron Mackintosh. Cameron invited Ball to audition for the juvenile lead in a new production. This led to the role of Marius in Les Miserables in 1985, which was shown at the Palace Theatre, London, a part that helped cement the actor’s reputation as a leading man.
After playing Raoul in a 1988 production of The Phantom of the Opera, he created the role of Alex in the West End premiere of Lloyd-Webber’s Aspects of Love. Although the production received mixed reviews, many critics wrote favourably about the leading man. Audiences flocked to the theatre and warmed in particular to the song “Love Changes Everything”, which Ball sang in both the original London cast and on Broadway, where the show opened in 1990. The single hit number one on the British charts, making Ball a household name.


Diversifying his exposure, Ball represented Great Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1992 with the entry” One Step Out of Time”. It reached an audience of 600 million worldwide and the single went to No 1 in the UK singles chart. The exposure led to Ball’s first solo album, Michael Ball, which topped the British charts and set the course for several more successful CD releases. His success as a solo artist led to a sell out national tour concluding at the London Palladium, and performances in front of HM The Queen at both Her Majesty’s 40th Anniversary Gala and The Royal Variety Show.
Michael's musical career developed further in 1993 when, taking the role of Tony, he made a recording of West Side Story with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He released his second album Always, which entered the UK charts at number three and remained in the top 20 for 10 weeks. The album was supported by a 30 date national tour, once again playing to capacity houses, and at Christmas he conceived and directed his own Christmas Special, performing in major regional theatre and in London.


It was during 1993 that Michael sang with Kiri Te Kanawa in front of a capacity audience at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena, and he launched his television show Michael Ball. Six episodes were recorded with Carlton Television, and his guests included the Bee Gees, Montserrat Caballe, the late Ray Charles, Gloria Estefan, Elaine Paige, Cliff Richard, Take That, Dionne Warwick and the late Tammy Wynette.1994 saw the release of Michael's third album One Careful Owner, which swiftly went Gold. Michael narrated The Cameron Mackintosh Story for BBC Radio 2, as well as guest DJ for their prime time show. The success of Michael Ball the television show lead to the recording of a second series, which again attracted major stars including the late Larry Adler, James Brown and Robert Palmer, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Cher, Joe Cocker, Marcella Detroit, D-Ream, Erasure, Darryl Hall, EmyLou Harris, Lulu and George Martin.
Michael concluded a successful year with yet another sell out national tour, and the release of The Best of Michael Ball, which gave Michael his 4th Gold Disc in three years.
In 1995 Michael was invited to recreate the role of Marius for the 10th Anniversary Gala Concert of Les Miserables at the Royal Albert Hall. Michael released The Rose, a charity single raising money for ROC (Research into Ovarian Cancer), and as a founder member of the charity he continues to be heavily involved with their work. Michael ended the year starring in Tony Palmer's film England, My England, a Channel 4 Films production in which he played Henry Purcell, and a one-hour Michael Ball Christmas Special for Carlton Television with guest stars Dusty Springfield and Michael Bolton.


1996 began with the release of his fifth album, First Love, which went straight into the UK charts at number 4, going Gold soon after, and saw his return to the stage starring in Stephen Sondheim's musical Passion at the Queen's Theatre, London. The show, a two-character musical, in which Ball played Giorgio, a handsome sailor who enters into an unlikely romance with a homely, ailing woman. The show won the 1996 London Evening Standard Theatre Award as best new musical.
In the autumn he left the production to prepare his new album, Michael Ball - The Musicals, which was released in November to coincide with his 4th national sell out tour. The year ended with Michael topping the bill at the Joy to the World Christmas Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, subsequently televised by the BBC1.


1997 saw the release of Michael's video The Musicals and More...entering the UK video charts at number one. It remained in the top 5 for over nine weeks, and the top 20 for over a year. Michael enjoyed a busy summer with an appearance at a major event in St Louis, USA. His performances included two open-air concerts - one at Bedford Park in North Devon, and top billing for Proms in the Park, a concert held in Hyde Park in front of 35,000 people for the Last Night of the Proms. During 1997 he returned to the television screen when he was asked to launch the Wednesday Lottery Show on BBC1, and guest present the National Lottery Live Show for the BBC during July. Following huge demand from the public, he ended the year with a 5th national sell out tour named Nothing But The Best.
He appeared in the 1997 Royal Variety Performance on the occasion of HM The Queen's Golden Wedding Anniversary, and as guest of honour at the Hallelujah Christmas Concert in Birmingham. In the early part of 1998, Michael performed and recorded three shows for the BBC at St David's Hall, Cardiff, with special guests Lesley Garrett, Ronan Keating and Martine McCutcheon. This was televised nationally during the summer in an hour-long special entitled An Evening with Michael Ball.
Due to Michael's huge contribution to the success of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh's musicals, he was asked to appear at both of their 50th birthday celebrations. At Webber’s 50th birthday party he sang the song “Gethsemane”, which is sung by Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, though he is not well-known for that role.  Lloyd Webber's evening was recorded for video and was released internationally, from which Michael received many great reviews. During the summer he enjoyed performing at a selection of sell out open-air festivals such as the Chelmsford Spectacular and the Liverpool Summer Pops. 1998 ended with a third hugely successful concert for his charity R.O.C, and the promotion of his 7th solo album entitled The Movies, which enjoys Platinum status with over 500,000 sales in the UK.
1999 had an exceptional beginning as Michael was named the Variety Club of Great Britain's Recording Artiste for 1998. This was in recognition of Michael's album The Movies, which gained Platinum status only six weeks after its release. Having begun his career as a musical actor, Michael was honoured at being regarded as a recording artist, and this has opened out his audience base even further.
His 6th UK tour went on sale at the close of 1998 and sold out within weeks. During April and May on the tour he entertained and delighted 74,527 people at 25 concerts. Not satisfied with such a grueling tour Michael went onto perform a concert in Amsterdam, two shows at the Liverpool Pops Festival and open-air concerts at Castle Howard, Glamis Castle and Longleat House. In July, the Theatregoers Club of Great Britain voted Michael the Most Popular Musical Actor over the last 21 years. He also performed private shows for The Prince's Trust in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales at Highgrove and for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Night. To conclude the summer season, Michael performed four sell out shows in Ireland. Whilst putting the finishing touches to his Live at the Royal Albert Hall video and album, as well as a Christmas album, he was involved in the Rugby World Cup opening and closing ceremonies during October. The launch of the live video and CD saw the year end on a high. His video went straight in at number one, and has since gone Platinum, with over 140,000 sales in the UK, whilst his album achieved Gold status within three weeks of going on sale.


Michael saw in the millennium with an outdoor concert in Kuala Lumpur. As soon as the new millennium began, Michael announced his 7th UK tour. The 27-date tour practically sold out within six weeks of going on sale. The majority of the year was spent planning and developing his new album titled This Time....It's Personal, which was released in October. The album includes covers of songs that are personal to him, and for the first time it includes material written by him. In July, whilst completing the album, PBS in the USA asked Michael to do a whistle stop promotional tour as they wished to show his Live at the Royal Albert Hall video as part of their August pledge drive. The reaction was overwhelming, with the video being shown across 30 states and he left with fans demanding more. Whilst in the US, Michael confirmed that along with the album, he would be recording in September a one off performance to an intimate audience of 300 at the Cafe de Paris in the heart of London's West End. The concert comprised a selection of songs from the new album as well as new and old favourites, and was released alongside the album in October. The year ended with Michael performing to 75,000 people on his 7th sell out UK tour, and a Gold disc for his album This Time....It's Personal.
In early March 2001 Michael was able to turn a long-held career dream into reality by appearing in concert in Australia. On the release of his latest Gold selling album there, Michael flew to Sydney for a 'one night only' concert, his first performance for an Australian audience. The Australian's welcome was one of the best he has ever experienced.
As he approached his fortieth birthday, Ball explored yet another aspect of his public image with a highly personal cabaret debut, Alone Together, performed at London's Donmar Warehouse as part of director Sam Mendes's "Divas in the Donmar" series in September of 2001. In this show Ball peeled away the trappings of celebrity to reach the audience through song, relying "not on chitchat or a hand microphone but on sheer empathy with his material," according to reviewer Matt Wolf of Variety. "Can this be Michael Ball, you may wonder, remembering the fluffy-haired, rather anodyne belter who starred in London and on Broadway?" Wolf continued. "It is, and yet different--a darker, more burnished figure." In the words of Seckerson, "Ball has always thrived on the cabaret format, the challenge of juxtaposing many different kinds of song and quickly establishing an emotional world for each of them. He's an easy communicator." This thrilling challenge gave Michael the opportunity to explore areas of the musical stage in a new concept show that embraced many songs that Michael had not sung before. His album Centre Stage was released during this time and went to Gold within seven weeks. The year ended with a video release of his Donmar show titled Alone Together, along with a sold out UK tour in December.


2002 began with Michael hard at work in rehearsal for the exciting new production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium. Based on the Ian Fleming book and the 1968 film, the score, by Richard and Robert Sherman, tells the story of inventor Caractucus Potts (Ball), who invents a magical flying car. In the company of Truly Scrumptious, his wacky father, and his two high-spirited children, Potts takes his car on a series of adventures designed to delight the younger members of the audience.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opened at the Palladium in June of 2002. Despite a nerve-wracking second night, when "Chitty went bang and refused to work," according to Time International, the show was well received by audiences, posting $11 million in advance sales.


In 2003, after completing a 16-month run in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Michael recorded a new album, “A Love Story” and subsequently undertook a major concert tour of the UK. The year finished with a Gala Christmas Concert at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
In March 2004, Michael undertook a highly successful concert tour of Australia, including a sell out at Sydney Opera House.  He co-starred with Petula Clark in a production of Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard at the Cork Opera House in the Republic of Ireland, which was later broadcast by the BBC prior to making his American solo concert debut in Salt Lake City, Utah in May. Later in the year, Michael performed in various outdoor concerts and participated in the Theatre Royal Haymarket's "Singular Sensations" season by reprising his Alone Together performance, slight reworked for the different setting. Towards the end of 2004 Michael released "Love Changes Everything - The Essential Michael Ball", a double CD containing three previously unreleased tracks including the self-penned "That's What Love Is For". The DVD/Video "Live in London" which had been recorded at the Hammersmith Apollo the previous year was also released in November. To round off the year Michael performed twice for members of the royal family, when he appeared in a special version of "Les Miserables" at Windsor Castle, and then at the opening celebrations of the new Wales Millennium Centre.


Michael continued his hectic schedule in 2005, replacing Michael Crawford in the role of Count Fosco in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Woman In White" in London, having only 10 days to learn the part
In September of that year, Ball made his New York City Opera debut as Reginald Bunthorne in Gilbert and Sullivan’sPatience during which he recorded his 11th, and one of his most successful, solo albums “Music” which was released in October. The album went into the UK Albums Chart at number11, and spent ten weeks in the top 75.
In November 2005, Ball returned to Broadway reprising the role of Count Fosco in The Woman in White, but was forced to leave the show due to a reported viral infection caused by the fat suit required for the role, which reportedly raised Ball’s body temperature by several degrees during the show. The suit is also thought to have been the cause of Michael Crawford’s premature departure from the show in London.
Ball spent the first quarter of 2006 on complete vocal rest, following the illness that caused him to leave Woman in White on Broadway after which he went straight into the studio to record his 12th solo album, “One Voice” ready for release in the autumn. During the summer he delighted audiences at several open-air venues, including Bath Recreation Ground where he shared the bill with Elaine Paige. He also performed at the “Proms In The Park” in Swansea. The Hackney Empire saw Michael perform in a tribute to the late Anthony Newley followed by a performance at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane as a guest of Petula Clark. The end of the year was particularly busy with a round of appearances to promote not only the new album but a new DVD Best of Michael Ball – Live” containing all the best songs from his Live In Concert DVDs. It is split into five sections: Musicals, Love Songs, Personal Favourites, Party Time and Unplugged. The DVD alsoincluded a brand new Unplugged session, which, Ball has recorded with just four other musicians in the studio especially for this DVD. He also managed to find time to stand in for Johnnie Walker on his Radio 2 programme on a Sunday evening, something Michael particularly enjoyed doing. His last TV appearance of the year was to push the button on the Lottery Show.

This year kicked off with Michael co-judging the second series of ITV’s reality television show “Soapstar Superstar”. From mid March until mid April he undertook a full 23-date UK tour taking in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. He then went straight into rehearsals for the role of Hajj the poet in the English National Opera’s production of “Kismet”, another new venture for Michael.

A new compilation album entitled Michael Ball: The Silver Collection was released in July, along with the DVD version of his 1995 England my England. Towards the end of the year, Ball will be recording his 15th solo album for release on 15th October. The album will feature songs all written by Burt Bacharach. This will be released along with a DVD of his 2007 Tour, filmed at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. The DVD is due for release on 19th November and will be entitled One Voice Live.

Michael Ball’s enthusiasm for his art is infectious. He gives 100% of himself and that is evidenced throughout his performance. He is a dramatic baritone known for his range, expression and power. This month sees him making a West End return starring as Edna Turnbald in the hit musical Hairspray at the Shaftsbury Theatre in London. Previews start on Thursday 11th October, before the opening night on Tuesday 30th October. He has signed a six-month contract; so will run through till Saturday 26th April 2008.

www.michaelball.co.uk
www.mbfc.co.uk

 

COMPETITION

October sees Michael making a West End return

What hit musical is he to appear in ?
What character does Michael appear as?



The winner will receive a copy of Michael's  DVD
The Best of Michael Ball Live

Answers to: michele@mattmonro.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREVIOUS SPOTLIGHT GUESTS

Petula Clark

Michele Monro

Lena Horne

Missing Media

George Martin

Dusty Springfield

Richard Moore

Tommy Bruce

Alma Cogan

Kathy Kirby

Tony Bennet

Johnny Mathis

Joe Longthorne

Frank Sinatra

Sammy Davis Jr.

Dean Martin

Nelson Riddle

Tony Christie

Nat King Cole

Steve Woof

Matt Monro Jnr.

Roy Leslie

Ken Dodd

Julie London

Sid Feller