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Michael Ball

August 2008

SUCH a nice man. Possibly the nicest in showbiz. It's a shame to catch him out.

Among the publicity material sent out he's quoted as saying: "I'm so impressed with the incredible work that Chas and Liz have done since they bought the farm 20 years ago."

But he's never been to Patchings.

"I never have, I've been to Nottingham loads of times but I've never done Patchings. But it seems like a really nice place."

You've looked on the website?

"Yeah, I've done all that. How long has it been running?"


He skates over the gaffe.

"It's nice to celebrate."

It's the first time Patchings will have held such an event.

"I'm their sacrificial lamb. I hope we get a good crowd because, you know, venues traditionally need to time for people to get them in their psyche and know what they're to expect.

"I've had my people go up there and have a look and they said it was a great facility."

It will be one of five summer shows for the singer, musicals star and broadcaster, who recently took over Michael Parkinson's Sunday morning slot on Radio 2.

The concert is billed as a musical spectacular and will feature songs from West End shows. Ball will be joined by a 12-piece band and three backing singers.

"The show I'll be doing in Nottingham I just did up in Liverpool and I've had the best reviews of my life for it."

Guest singers include fellow West End performers Mike Sterling (The Phantom of the Opera), Michael McCarthy (Les Miserables) and Rachel Wooding, who is currently appearing alongside Ball in Hairspray.

"But being the ego-maniac I am the show is mainly me."

It was for his role as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray that he picked up his first Olivier award.

"I'd never been nominated before. And to get it by cross dressing, well it shows it's a career option."

He'll be in Hairspray until October at least.

"It's hot at the moment because we have no air conditioning backstage but on stage is phenomenal. The audiences are still loving it. We're nine months in and it's as fresh as it was opening night."

How much make-up have you to slap on each night?

"Not very much. You see I'm pretty," he adds, laughing hysterically.

"Edna's a right munter to start with so I don't have to work very hard at that. I slap on a bit of lippy and red eye shadow and Bob's your uncle."

This is the first Olivier but not the first award. Do you have a particular Ball room in the house for the trophies?

"Well, there's my study, my inner sanctum at the top of the house where I just sit and stare at myself thinking 'oh I'm fabulous'.

"Actually I've none of them up at the moment because we're redecorating though my Olivier is in pride of place. The trouble is, some of the awards you get are really ugly and you don't want them on display."

He has an album to deliver next March, which will mark his 25th anniversary in show business.

"It's my silver jubilee."

Blimey, you must be really old.

"Yeah, I'm 437."

He'll likely be back on tour with the album next autumn. Currently, along with Hairspray, Ball is busy presenting his new Radio 2 show.

"It's Parky's old slot, so they're pretty big shoes to fill but I really enjoy it. I do paper reviews, I do entertainment reviews, there's a special guest every week. You can tell I haven't got a problem talking," he adds with another guffaw.

He shares a producer with Jonathan Ross but his show is very different, he insists.

"I don't need to talk as much as Jonathan. I'm actually more interested in my guests than he is," laughs Ball.

"I think I've done his radio show more than anybody and I've been on his TV show a few times and he's one of the quickest, funniest men I've ever come across. He's brilliant. But that's not where I'm going with my show."

Back to Patchings: it's an art centre, so how are you and art?

"Well, I'm in performing art."

No, I mean fine art. Painting, sculpture...

"I'm rubbish," he says laughing wildly.

"I love graphic art and graphic novels. When I was a kid I was always drawing and inventing my own superheroes and I still buy and read those graphic novels."

You're a comic book nerd?

"I am. I'm a bit of a nerd. And I love the new movies. I haven't seen Batman yet but the films of the superheroes are just right up my street."

His wife, Cathy McGowan, the former presenter of 60s pop music show Ready, Steady Go (she's 20 years his senior), doesn't share his passion.

"I remember taking Cathy into a shop in Richmond near where I live called They Walk Among Us and I think I'd have had a better response if I'd taken her into a sex shop in Amsterdam."

Michael Ball appears at Patchings Art Centre, Oxton Road, Calverton, on Sunday August 10.

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