Michael Ball "I'm All By Myself"

~ Andy Coleman talks to Michael Ball about his one-man Birmingham show which will spring a surprise or two
for Birmingham Post 21/09/2009 ~

A quarter of a century in showbiz is being celebrated by Michael Ball at Birmingham NIA next Saturday.

The Bromsgrove-born star has recently left the West End version of stage hit Hairspray to tour the UK with his own show.

‘‘Twenty five years is a bit of a milestone,'' says 47-year-old Michael whose first role was in Godspell in 1984.

‘‘It's lovely to have reached this point, having had the most successful and best time of my life. To be doing new things, to have found a whole new public through doing my radio show, to still be making records and having come off the back of Hairspray, it's a really joyous time.”

He reveals that there will be a party atmosphere at the NIA on Saturday.

‘‘It's going to be a celebration. There's going to stuff in there that I've never performed on stage before.

‘‘I wanted to find a way of re-looking at shows I've been in and also find songs I've always wanted to perform, that I think I can do differently and people will know and go ‘blimey I never thought he'd do that'.

‘‘I want people to go out saying, ‘you know what, I heard the songs I wanted to hear,

‘‘I've seen things I wanted to see and I've seen things I didn't know I wanted to see but it all worked and I feel better for having gone in there'.''

Michael even promises some unexpected moments during the concert.

‘‘Would it surprise you to know I've always wanted to do a song by Kiss?

There will be a song by Kiss and people will go ‘What?!' and they probably think they won't want to hear it but I think they'll be surprised when they do hear it.''

Michael's career has been full of surprises, the most recent being when he donned a dress and wig for the part of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

‘‘I saw the show when it first opened on Broadway and it was the best night in the theatre I've ever seen,'' he recalls. ‘‘At the centre of it was this wonderful creation, Edna, and I knew that no one would anticipate me doing it, no one would see that one coming.

‘‘I imagined there would be a lot of cynicism about me doing it so I wanted to pull it off. I had in my head how I thought it should be played.

‘‘Edna's not a pantomime dame. It's really important that I approached her as a character and played it for real as much as one can. I think that's what endears people to Edna. You kind of forget it's a bloke for a while.

‘‘It was a gamble for me and for the producers and for the director but I'm so glad it paid off because I've had the best time in my life.''

And there was the added bonus of recognition by the theatre industry.

‘‘I got an Olivier Award! I can't believe it,'' he enthuses.

After two years in the West End Michael left Hairspray, handing over the wig to comedian Brian Conley.

‘‘It's far and away the longest I'd been involved in a show. I wanted to leave while it was still fresh, while I still loved doing it, while we were still having full houses, so that I could go off and do other things.

‘‘I really wanted to get back on the road and do a tour. It's two and a half years since I did a proper tour and it's time I did.''

But Edna will be reappearing in his life as it's recently been announced that Michael will star in the touring version of Hairspray when it plays in Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton and Manchester.

‘‘I don't think anything has been quite as exciting, challenging and different as Hairspray,'' he says.

* Michael Ball, Saturday, Sept 26: NIA Academy, Birmingham

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