Double Olivier Award-winner Michael Ball took the time out to speak to The Reviews Hub about his rôle in Jonathan Church’s lavish revival of Jerry Herman’sMack &Mabel, and his long and successful career in musical theatre.
Based on the true story of silent movie director Mack Sennett and his leading lady, Mabel Normand,Mack &Mabelcharts the pair’s tumultuous and often dysfunctional relationship through the silent era until the dawn of the talkies.
Ballbegins by explaining that the revival of this production had been a labour of love, with the seeds sewn back when he starred inSweeney Toddat the Chichester Festival Theatre. “I always knew I wanted to do it,” he says. “I think it’s one of the best shows every written, with one of the best scores ever written. Every song is a 24 carat gold hit.”
Asked about the scale of this revival, he tells TRH: “It’s never been done on this scale. It’s always been a favourite with amateur societies, and there have been a few productions through the years, but this is such a big story. The songs themselves demand a big production and, with this tour, it is how it should be. It’s a big, bold, Broadway extravaganza.”
Ball has cemented himself a reputation as one of the most affable stars of the stage and screen, a direct contrast to his rôle as Mack Sennett. He explains that he enjoys being able to break the fourth wall with the audience, but says he could not be more different to Sennett. “He didn’t care how he treated people,” he says. “For him, the most glorious sound was laughter, but as a person he would make people cry.”
Ball talks passionately about his leading lady, Rebecca LaChance, who was plucked fromBeautiful: The Carôle King Musicalon Broadway. “I knew instantly when I saw her that she was the one to play Mabel. I think she’s extraordinary.” Of the whole team, he sings their praises to a point that would surely make them blush: “A show is only as good as its weakest link, and there is no weak link in this show.”
The music ofMack and Mabelmay seem familiar, but not exactly well-known, but Ball assures us that: “people will know the songs; Torvill and Dean skated to the overture.”
At Christmas 2014 Ball was gifted the success of Victoria Wood’s TV musicalThat Day We Sang, in which he starred alongside Sweeney Todd co-star Imelda Staunton. “It was such a special thing, to be working with these people on a project that hadn’t been done before. Of course, I would do something like that again, but as long as I’m interested in something I will jump into it. Even the idea of doing straight drama on TV would be great.”
Of course, the opportunity couldn’t be passed up to ask what the future holds for a man who has played nearly every rôle there is to play in musical theatre: “The only thing I haven’t done is direct, and that is something that I need to put right. It’s finding the right time and the right project, but I would love to do that.”
Seldom is Michael Ball left with little to say, but the last question is answered with one word. When asked which rôles he would like to revisit, his response is uncompromising: “Edna!”
Audiences, keep your eyes peeled.
Mack &Mabel begins its tour at Theatre Royal Plymouth on 2October and runs until 6 December 2015 | Image: Contributed
The Reviews Hub would like to express our condolences to the cast of Mack &Mabel and to the family of Alex Giannini at their sad loss.