Michael Ball: from zero to hero

Friday 24 August 2007

He may offer a very nice line in cork-backed coasters (right) and car tax disc holders but otherwise we have to say that the West End Whingers have never really got the point of Michael Ball.

We’re not against him, particularly, it’s just that we’re not really for him either which has left us in an unusually neutral position over him being cast as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

But now that we know that he is a man who really doesn’t know or care which side his bread is buttered and is more than happy to bite the hand that feeds him, we’re rather warming to the man.

In case you missed it, there was an interview with him in the Evening Standard this week under the title “It was shockingly, gloriously awful” in which he shamelessly derides the ENO‘s recent plane crash of a revival of Kismet in which he starred. “It was like being in a cross between Springtime for Hitler and Carry on Camel,” he laughs.

We shamelessly reproduce his revelations quite extensively here for your enjoyment comforted by the knowledge that if we get sent down for copyright infringement we’ll grass on Shenton and he’ll go down too.

It was truly unbelievable. Kismet had all the isms – racism, sexism, you name it. It’s not funny. The book is old-fashioned and clunking but I think no one knew if one of the writers was still alive and we weren’t allowed to change a word.The rehearsals were a shambles. People were standing around on stage saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ Can you believe it? I’ve never had a dance lesson in my life but I suggested a few things, just because you have to come up with something with all those people looking at you. It was as if a member of the Stedham Village Players had won the Lottery and said [puts on camp northern accent]: ‘I’m putting on Kismet and I’ll do it my way.’ It was like Aladdin at the Bradford Alhambra circa 1978.

I’m going to be in trouble but I don’t care. It shouldn’t put actors through such things! When it comes to doing musicals, ENO is amateur. Doing musicals is a different business, technically, musically, dramatically, and you can’t do it the same way as opera. That’s why musicals always have previews.

Kismet only had one. The whole show nearly began with Alfie Boe walking on carrying an AK47 rifle with a load of dead bodies on the floor! And this is Baghdad – imagine. I had to say ‘No, believe me, you just can’t do that. This is entertainment.’

And one of the biggest disasters was the design. To stick it all in a bloody great Day-Glo pink blancmange with no room to move and having the male dancers dressed in the same colour as the set so you couldn’t see them and the women, supposed to be luscious and sexy, wrapped up in M&S blue sheets … They said, ‘Oh we’ve done research you know!’ I ask you! Research? This is showbiz!

At ENO, because it ‘ s subsidised, there’s a civil-servant mentality. Even if you’re in the middle of a song, if the rehearsal reaches its scheduled end, you all down tools. I found that completely shocking. There was no collective sense of continuing to the end – just a matter of minutes – to make the whole enterprise better. One of two people might have done it but the others had already gone home.

Astonishing. But we reserve particular praise for this gem:

But in spite of all that, I loved every second. The people were great and I’d be happy to work at the Coliseum again.

Hmmm, well, we suppose it could happen.

So, anyway, yes, we’ve shifted our position a bit and we entreat you to show your support by visiting his shop and buying those cork-backed coasters and car tax disc holders.

Unfortunately his 2007 calendar has sold out but his limited (to 500) edition 2007 diary (right) seems to still be and has been reduced to £8. It is apparently of handbag size and contains tour dates and photos.

Well, most of the dates would, of course, probably just say “Hairspray” eight times a week for most of the rest of the year except that the diary was presumably printed before that was arranged so it’s not going to be much use.

Anyway, as previously mentioned, some production images have been released and our general feeling is that Ball looks far too glamorous and his hair isn’t nearly high enough. But we’re keeping an open mind.

By the way, we’re especially delighted to note that name of some of the images contain the words “retouch” and we’re desperate to know on whose order and whether the changes are intended to make him fatter or thinner.

One Response to “Michael Ball: from zero to hero”

  1. Lou Says:

    “And one of the biggest disasters was the design. To stick it all in a bloody great Day-Glo pink blancmange with no room to move and having the male dancers dressed in the same colour as the set so you couldn’t see them and the women, supposed to be luscious and sexy, wrapped up in M&S blue sheets”

    He wasn’t wrong there! bravo, I say and I think the record advanced sales and huge box office success of “Kismet” might just convince the ENO.

    The two close ups have been retouched, it could have been to remove any trace of his own eyebrows from under the eye make up. The photo’s all look great. I’m glad that the creative team have come over to work on this production and are giving it a bit of individuality.


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