September / October 2001 Edition (issue 11) ~
Michael Ball has never taken a singing lesson in his life. But combining a natural singing voice with his acting talents, he has become Britain's biggest musical performer
Star of the stage
Somewhere in Michael Ball's home 11 gold and platinum disxs adorn the walls - tesimony to the huge following he has gained through leading roles in hit musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and Aspects of Love. In fact, the Theatregoers' Club of Great Britain recently dubbed him 'Most Popular Musical Actor of the last 20 years'. Not bad for a man who has never had singing lessons! "But I did some busking in my youth," laufhgs Ball. "And I did train as an actor."
Andrew Lloyd Webber, who knows a thing or two about thse things, probably hit the nail on the head when he said.
'Michael has a god-given voice. He is that very rare thing - a natural singer who can just get on stage and deliver".
As well as his work in musical theatre over the last decade, ball hosted his own TV shows and appeared at presigious events such as The Last Night of the Proms and the Royal Variety Show. His concerts and tours are always sell outs, and of late he's become a broadcaster of music programmes.
Despite all these achievements, Ball doesn't believe in planning his career moves. "You can dream of course," he says thoughtfully. "Earlier this year I fulfilled a long-held ambition to perform in Australia which was great. But in general I go for projects wthat will challenge and stimulate. That's how you stay fresh. And I love the business I'm in. It's my joy - and my passion!"
Ball's musical tastes began to form at around eight years of age, when he was living in South Africa. He says, "There was no TV but in our rented house we inherited a record collection, which included albums by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. They were my musical gurus. My mother played the piano, too, so we'd gather round, singing numbers by Irving Berlin or George Gershwin. Having that sort of bases enables you to approach contemporary stuff with a sicerning ear. I'm a big Joni Mitchell fan, for instance - I record and perform her songs. I also like Radiohead."
Currently, Ball is undertaking a new challenge. Audiences, used to his friendly approachable style, will find him in more xexperimental mode in a one-man show at the Donmar Warehoue, covent Garden. "I won't be singing anything I've sung before," he declares. "There are no sets, no orchestra - just a piano. I won't even speak. I want people to come with me on this particular musical journey with an open mind. I'm expressing a performer's view of life - and love." A totally appropriate role for the man whose marvelous voice convinced us that Love Changes Everything.
About Centre Stage:
Michael doesn't like to stand still. So although Centre Stage features songs from shows with which he's been associated, there are other less familiar and rather intriguing tracks, which makes for an absorbing mix of emotions and rhythms. Boy From Nowhere is a Spanish-style number from Matador, while Seasons of Love, from Rent, has a catchy, rock feel. Another interesting choice is Send In The Clowsn, from Stephenn Sondheim's A Little Night Music, which is normally delivered the leading lady in the show. Ball once asked Sondheim why so many of his best songs are reserved for women, to which the great songwriter replied that mostly the songs were not gender specific but merely reflected a character's situation. he encouraged Ball to record any songs he found appealing. On this CD, Michael uses his coval ability wisely, interpreting the wide-ranging material with sublety and power - in all the right places.