I HAVE said it before and I’ll say it again, Michael Ball is the nicest man in showbusiness. But doesn’t he ever lose it, fly in to a rage and kick puppies in to the canal?
“I never kick puppies, only kittens,” he chuckles.
“I’ve got a temper but I very rarely lose my rag. I can be very strong. I do require a certain level of discipline, in the theatre certainly, with the kids in Hairspray. It’s my job to teach them because I was taught by older performers. It’s so you can work as a team.”
Hairspray has been around since John Waters’ cult film from 1988 which begat the Broadway musical and then the John Travolta movie re-make and, most recently, the West End hit starring Ball as the irrepressible Edna. He continues to be the driving force behind the UK tour, that came to Nottingham last month, starring Michael Starke and Micky Dolenz.
Along with that, Ball alternates with Terry Wogan on Radio 2’s Sunday morning show. Then there’s the Heroes concert tour coming up, which includes two dates in Nottingham. Is he a workaholic?
“I’m think I’m quite lazy, actually,” he says.
“There’s just a lot of work on. I don’t think of a lot of it as work anyway. And I love that it’s diverse. It keeps being interesting. I know about the boring stuff as well. Believe me, I have to do all that but that’s part of being a professional I guess.”
He’s having a week off next month then goes straight in to preparations for the tour that’ll see him singing the songs of some of his music heroes, among them Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and Barry Manilow.
The corresponding album, Heroes, reached number ten in the UK charts.
“I know,” he says. “Look at me. I’m someone to know.”
He adds: “I was with Barry (Manilow) at the Olivier Awards, which I was hosting, and I was harmonising with him, stood next to Angela Lansbury. I think that’s what you call a good showbiz moment.”
He meets many more stars on the Radio 2 show, a slot he shares with Wogan.
“I do it for three months, then Terry does it for three months.”
My colleague Oonagh Robinson thinks you’re better.
“Oooh, does she? Controversial.”
He adds: “I knew what I wanted it to be, which was something that I’d like to listen to on a Sunday; a look at news and entertainment with guests but I don’t think of them as interviews. They have something to promote and we understand that conceit but I like to turn it into a conversation rather than running through a list of questions.
“I do have a few fall back questions just in case they become ‘yes/no’ interlude people. I’m sure you’ve had those.”
Oh yes. It makes you wonder why they bother?
“Exactly. I think it’s just rude. If you get an opportunity to promote something you have a duty, I think, to be interesting. To be honest I haven’t had many.”
Alfie Boe wasn’t one of them. The musicals star, who’ll be performing at the Royal Concert Hall in the autumn, joined Ball on air for a rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’
“He cracked on the top B and I laughed my head off,” says Ball.
“I like Alfie a lot. We might be recording together soon.”
Obviously you’re better than him?
“Well, of course I am,” he laughs.
The ITV daytime chat show he hosted won’t be coming back “for the forseeable” he says.
“I really enjoyed doing it but it’s all consuming doing your own show. And it’s a difficult one to crack.”
Unlike the radio show, which has been a success -- despite the occasional gaff.
“About a month ago, we were coming up to the end of the show and I had to fill for a minute and a half. What you do in those circumstances is get the BBC menu and see what’s coming up on Radio 2 throughout the day. And I mentioned David Jacobs, who has a show at 11 o’clock at night that I quite often listen to. So I said’ Do any of you listen to David Jacobs at 11 o’clock? I love him. There’s nothing better than me lying in the bath and him relaxing me off.’
“Everyone in the control room fell on the floor. I started peeing myself. I couldn’t speak. But there was nothing we could do. The next time I saw David Jacobs he said: ‘Well, I’ve never heard anything quite like it.’”
He laughs: “It was just so wrong.”
Michael Ball appears at the Royal Concert Hall on June 7 and 8. Tickets are £32.50 and £36, call 0115 989 5555 or visitwww.trch.co.uk