On The Ball

SHELLEY MARSDEN meets ‘Mr Musical' himself, Michael Ball

~ The Irish World by Shelly Marsden - 02/12/09 ~

Michael Ball is looking incredibly chirpy, considering it's not even lunchtime and he's probably spoken about his entire career at least three times already. Finishing off a bacon sarny with relish, the star of the British stage shakes my hand warmly and smiles, showing off a set of boyish dimples.

We're here to talk about the new DVD “Michael Ball Past and Present, Live at the Royal Albert Hall', but before we get to that, the 47-year-old from Worcestershire  is still on a high about a recent trip to Nashville to meet Dolly Parton.

“We're doing a two-hour special for Radio 2 about the trip”, he says excitedly, “and it was also filmed, so they're going to use that footage on This Morning. I'm a huge fan; she's a big old talent.”

Ball had been on Broadway performing in ‘Woman In White', and bought tickets the country singer at Radio City Music Hall. He'd always been a fan, but her showmanship (including a hilarious saving-of-face when the curtain got stuck), cemented his admiration.

“She puts a show together the way I would. It's a journey, with lots of talking. And she's so versatile… she'll crack you up, but then she'll sing ‘Little Sparrow' and make you cry. I thought God, I'd love to meet her, and the opportunity arose.”

Dolly greeted Ball at the pink gates of Dolly Central, “all four foot nothing” in a black sequined suit. “It was two hours of pure hero worship”, says Ball with a hearty laugh. “I have a Dolly T-shirt, which I sometimes sleep in, and I got her to sign it for me. I gave her one of mine and she's promised she'll sleep with me!”

Talking of stars, Ball himself has been gracing stages across the UK, Ireland and America for the last 25 years. A multi-platinum recording artist, TV and radio presenter, he is rounding off 2009 nicely with a new album, recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall.

From his 1985 debut as Marius in Les Mis, to Aspects of Love and Phantom, Ball has become synonymous with musical theatre; and each song on the new DVD, which is sure to find its way into a few Christmas stockings this year, represents a different memory.

Perhaps it's all this talk of 25 years in the business, but Ball is in reflective vein, and tells me he's old enough to understand that this period of his life will come to end – but he is happy he has lived it.

“All the stars are in alignment; I'm happy, I'm healthy, the work's good, there's stuff to look forward to. God knows, at some point it's going to end. I've had enough times when things were out of kilter; it's nice when things are good. I can also say, ‘You know what? I'm going to bed now!'

So the late-night partying catches up on us all, then! Ball recalls nights when he would get home at 1am, and have to be out of bed at 6am. He has since realised he just can't stretch himself so thin, be part of that showbiz life all the time – or neglect the pets!

“Sometimes you just want to go for a walk, relax at home. I'm not at home enough right now to do my fair share of domestic chores. I've got two Tibetan terriers, and ‘her indoors' will go, ‘I am not a dog walker!'

The album was quite a walk down memory lane – in fact, he was hard pushed deciding which songs would make the cut. “You have to construct a show that's exactly that; a piece of theatre that flows, keeps the right energy throughout. If you get it right, it's a two-way thing, a bit like sex!”


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