Having a Ball
Life couldn't be sweeter for Michael ball. Riding high on the success of a sell-out tour earlier this year, this month sees the release of a new album and the start of his own TV series. He explains to OK! Magazine why he finds it hard to imagine ever being happier.
He can't exactly be described as trendy, Indeed his style of performance could almost be something of a throwback to a bygone age. But when Micahel ball toured the country earlier this year, he sold out everywhere, bringing his capacity audiences to their feet, night after night, venue after venue.
And how did he achieve this? With a fabulously expensive display of strobe lighting and pyrotechnics? with laser beams and a decibel level to alert the loval authorities? No, as a maatter of fact, what had Michael ball's adoring audiences clamouring for more was an unashamedly old-fashioned mix of well-sung music - everything from pop to light classics- slick dancing and a liberal dash of genial good humour.
Certainly, the man himself isn't about to apologise for so obviously getting it right. "I quite deliberately tried to provide something for everyone," he says. "From what I can gather, people really want to feel thy've been entertained - and you do that by giving them as much as you can."
and as good as you've got. Which, in the case of the likeable Mr. Ball, would appear to be a great deal. Clearly, Carlton Television seem to think so, having given him his own six week series starting on Thursday July 8th.
Proof, if it were needed, of the beadth of Michael Ball's musical tastes - and, therefore, of the wide audience he atttracts - can be gleaned form the surprisingly varied list of guest stars already signed to appear with him. From Montserrat Caballe and Billy Ray Cyrus to Gloria Estefan and Take That, Tammy Wynette, the Bee Gees and Luther Vandross,. Oh, and then there's Cliff Richard, Billy Joel (probably) and five more still to be decided.
"I love country music," says 30-year-old Michael. "I love pop. I love opera. The great thing about this series is that I'll get to sing all those different styles, with the right people."
He'd say it himself, but the man doesn't appear particularly intimidated by some of the pretty large talents, not to say sizeable egos, he'll find himself dealing with. But then here is a recent veteran of a concert - special guests, J. and N. Major - in which he shared the platform with one Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
"I couldn't compete with her as a singer, as a technician. Her ability to hold notes, her breath control, her vocal range - it's the best, simply superlative. But we found a way of working together, a way of giving each other our individual strength, if you like. And she's so down-to-earth, totally unpretentious."
before the serious business of recording his headlining series began in earnest, there was to be a break - all of 10 days - when Michael planned to recharge the batteries, doing something he likes best with someone he likes best.
Oh yes? Big grin. "Yeah, Cath and I went to New York to see a few shows - Blood Brothers , for instance - and generally have a good time." The Cath in question is Cathy McGowan, former Sixties icon from the (mostly) live musical show, Ready, Steady, Go! , now frequent television interviewer - "and the most important person in my life," according to Michael Ball.
At first glance, it's an unusual partnership. In her mid-forties, she is some 15 years older than Michael, a fact that doesn't at all faze him. "We've known each other now," he says, "for over four years. She's a fabulous woman."
But doesn't that age gap ever give him pause for thought? Michael Ball opens the blue eyes even wider. "Have you seen her?" He chuckles contendedly. "She looks younger than I do. She's absolutely amazing."
They met when she came to interview him. "And we hit it off from the beginning. We think the same. We laugh at the same things. And I love how she looks. I don't know anyone who dresses more beautifully. She has incredible style."
So - does he think about the future with her? "Yes." he says, but offers nothing more than another chuckle. is she the most important female in his life? "oh yes," he says, "aparat from the dog of course." Fine. Well, what about his professional future? With so much promise and so much time, where does Michael Ball want to be in, say, 10 years from now?
"I've been so lucky," he says. "Around 10 years ago, the type of musical theatre I enjoy simply didn't exist. I really have been in the right place at the right time. Now, I'd like to go back to America (he made a great impression on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love) and see if I can repeat some of that success. It worked in New York. I'd like to feel I could take it that bit further. And in Europe, too, and Australia."
In the meantime, there is the release of his second album - A Song For You (actually it was then called Always, note from the webmaster)- due out in July. "Now, if that is in any way as successful as the first album, whch went straight into the charts at number one, I shall be delighted." Again, there is a catholic mix of tracks - everything from Burt Bacharach's A House Is Not A Home to standards like Stormy Weather - accompanied by an impressively large orchestra.
Last year was pretty god, says Michael ball, even allowing for being robbed of winnning the Eurovision Song Contest by a meere two points. But 1993 is shaping up as being even better, with plans afoot for a spectecular stage show at Christmas.
He hesitates before saying it - fearful, perhaps that someone up there might be listening - but he finds it hard to imagine being happier. "Look, I'm with the person I love. I've got a great house, the job's going well and it's really stimulating work. new stuff that I never thought I'd be doing. It's difficult to know how you can improve on that."
But he's at pains to avoid sounding complacent. "Oh the other hand, I wake up every morning and think they're going to come for me now, that it was all a joke. In fact, Cathy and I were having that very conversation on the last night of the tour.
"The party was going on somewhere else in the building. We slipped back into the auditorium of the Dominion Theatre in London's Tottenham Court Road. We sat there in the total emptiness and looked at each other. suddenly, Cath pipes up, 'Right, I'll get the car started. You grab the takings. And then we'll be off.' we felt like Bonnie and Clyde. There's this feeling, you see, that we'll be rumbled at any minute. Life couldn't be bettered."
It could, of course, Michael ball, if he gets his way - and he very often does - just might end up as an international star. He smiles his cheekiest smile. "Well you know what they say. The world is my lobster."