Edna the perfect woman for Michael Ball

~ Sussex Express - Phil Hewitt - 19/05/2010 ~

IF IT gets to the interval and someone turns up at the box office and says 'So where's Michael Ball then?', then Michael will know he's done his job.
Britain's leading musical star is back as the larger-than-life Edna Turnblad in Hairspray which tours to The Mayflower, Southampton from May 11-29.

And he knows Edna - so famously played on the big screen by John Travolta - is a character you've just got to get right in one of the biggest feel-good musicals ever.

"Women have been asking whether they could play the role, but if it were played by a woman it would be rather cruel," says Michael, a performer with a long association with the Chichester area and currently in pole position for the prestigious P Hewitt Nicest Interviewee Of The Year Award 2010.

"There are a lot of body-image jokes and it would be a bit uncomfortable if it were played by a woman."

But as Michael insists: "The whole key is you must never look like a man in a dress. You must look like a woman."

Hence Michael's delight at the 'where's Michael Ball' comment which really does happen: "You have got to convince the audience with Edna, with the family and with the relationships. It must never be 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink, you know I am a bloke'.

"It is not Danny La Rue. It is not Les Dawson. You don't have to be a killer to play Macbeth. That's the joy of acting!"

It's a role Michael knew he had to play: "I saw the show on Broadway with the original cast, and it was one of the best nights I had ever had in the theatre. I just knew she was right for me!"

And so it proved. Michael went on to originate the role of Edna in the London production.

"The music is stunning. The characters are brilliant. It's funny. It's clever. It's slightly subversive.

"Quite often with a musical, the music is terrific, but the story in between the songs is a bit of a let-down, but this one is terrific in both respects. It's a lovely look at people that are forced to be excluded from society and how they are brought in through the dancing of a chubby girl."

Its 1962, the 50s are out and change is in the air. Baltimore's Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion – dancing. She wins a spot on the local TV dance programme, The Corny Collins Show and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity.

But can a trendsetting hair-hopper like Tracy get her massively-shy Mom out of the apartment, beat evil Amber to be crowned Miss Hairspray, integrate Corny's show for good and win the heart of local heartthrob Link Larkin, all without denting her 'do'?

Michael is committed for the show for most of the year, apart from time out for television.

But he's confident he will be back in the Chichester area for most of August: "My mum has just moved in to the centre of Chichester as well. She's very happy now. She was in Singleton and has now moved back into the centre of town. She wanted to have a flat in town."

On and off Michael has been coming down to Chichester or to the south coast for most of his life and has lived variously in Bosham, Itchnenor and West Wittering.

"It's a great area with great people. People are very happy to let us get on with our lives. People are very affectionate. They will ask for a picture or an autograph, which is great by me, but they just let us get on with it."

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