Michael's having a Ball in new Show

~ Portsmouth The News - 16/03/07 ~

Michael Ball stood me up. In his defence, it wasn't his fault - some mix up with the PR company apparently. And he was very gracious, apologising and offering to send me flowers, chocolates and champagne, 'if it had been a date.' If only. An evening spent in the company of this engaging, chirpy man would doubtless be fun.

The good-looking singer with the impossibly white teeth, sparkling blue eyes, thick glossy hair - and those dimples - is charm personified. But not in an oily way. He comes across as down-to-earth and genuinely happy. Is he always so cheerful?

'Actually, I'm not at the moment. I'm climbing the walls. I've just given up smoking,' he confides.

'I'm nearly eating my foot with frustration - and I'm piling on the weight.

'I'm doing the Alan Carr Easy Way - which is a lie!,' he laughs. 'You have counselling sessions but you do it cold turkey. I haven't touched one for two weeks.'

Who would have thought that the man who's known for belting out powerful song has been doing it all with a 30-a-day habit?

'I know, I know! I'm always being asked that. I'm determined to give up now. I gave up once before and my voice definitely got clearer and I had more stamina. I do feel better for it already.

'I'm replacing it with other things though - such as food. I've got an oral fixation right now!' If it's a case of keeping busy to distract himself from temptation, Michael's got that covered.

A remarkably youthful 42-year-old, it's hard to believe it was 17 years ago that he hit the West End stage in the role of Alex in the memorable Aspects of Love.

He's also played a whole host of other lead roles in some of the biggest productions, such as Marius in Les Miserables, Raoul in Phantom of the Opera, the batty Caractacus Potts in the stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the evil Count Fosco in Woman In White.

Then there's all the opera he's performed. And the countelss albums. Not bad for someone who's never had any form of professional voice coaching.

In fact, he says he always intended to be an actor rather than a singer, and had no notion of his talent until fate stepped in one day.
Raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Michael's father used to take him to watch the Royal Shakespeare Company perform.

He was so impressed, he vowed to become actor and went on to study at the Guildford School of Acting.

Then, at just one of many auditions, he found himself up for a part in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, and it was his singing that got him noticed.

'I really had no idea I could make my living from singing until that day,' he says. But the acting training has not been wasted.

Says Michael: 'It's because I'm an actor and not just a singer, I get into the character of the singer as opposed to just singing the notes.' It's that voice fans will be interested when they pitch up to see Michael at Portsmouth Guildhall this month.

As well as favourite songs from the musical, he'll be performing some of the tracks on his new album, One Voice which is a follow-up to 2005's 250,000-plus selling Music.

It's a collection of songs by writers as diverse as Barry Manilow, Don Henley and REM. There are also covers of Aerosmith and Rainbow songs. That's because Michael is a big fan of rock music. 'I chose every song on the album. I wanted to do something for everybody, but I chose the rock stuff so I could feel like a rock star!'

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