Michael Ball: ‘I wouldn’t be where I am without Andrew’

Michael Ball discusses his star-studded celebration of pal Andrew Lloyd Webber in ITV’s Andrew Lloyd Webber: 40 Musical Years (Sunday, March 31)…

What can you tell us about this 90-minute entertainment extravaganza screening on ITV?
“It’s a really good show celebrating Andrew Lloyd Webber’s talent. It’s not so much a tribute show as a celebration. We also send him up a bit – because he needs it! Andrew’s on sparkling form and you get a real insight into the man. He opens up about some things in a way I’ve never heard him open up before.”

Why do you think that was?
“The lovely thing is we didn’t do the programme as a sofa-based thing. Andrew’s comfortable behind the piano so that’s where you see him while I’m talking to him. It meant he could illustrate things he was talking about with little tunes!”

Who can we expect to see perform?
“There are some amazing performances of Andrew’s music. Famous faces on the stage include Nicole Scherzinger, Kimberley Walsh, Melanie C, Myleene Klass, Il Divo, and Samantha Barks. There are some extraordinary renditions from Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and Tell Me On A Sunday.”

What were the standout moments for you?
“There were a few big surprises for me. Myleene Klass doing Shakalaka Baby in a sari is one of the sexiest things you’ll ever see. And Nicole Scherzinger singing Don’t Cry For me Argentina is electrifying. Sam Barks’ beautiful performance of Another Suitcase In Another Hall is also a show-stopping moment.”

Are there any special surprises in store for Andrew?
“There are actually! For the finale I sing Love Changes Everything and am joined by Il Divo. We’ve also got some wonderful tribute videos. Michael Cain’s VT is brilliantly funny. They’ve very good pals. Simon Cowell is on there too and really funny. I also do a quick-fire round and Andrew has no option but to answer the questions – some of which are really leftfield!”

Why do you think fans should tune in to Andrew Lloyd Webber: 40 Musical Years?
“It’s funny and entertaining, but the core of it is that the man is a brilliant talent who writes magnificent music. I think we showcase that, so with all the other things as well it makes for a brilliant 90-minutes. I hope the audience connect with it.”

Is this a very personal piece of telly for you?
“Hugely. The first piece of musical theatre I saw was Jesus Christ Superstar when I was 12. It made me want to be a part of it. I later met Andrew when I auditioned for Phantom of the Opera – and I was terrified! But I got the role, then he put me into Aspects of Love and wrote Love Changes Everything. So he’s been an absolute central figure in my life. I’ve known him 28 years now, and been a fan for 40. We have a strong friendship and a strong working relationship.”

And he’s recently written a song for you?
“Yes! The only other person he’s written a song for is Elvis – I feel very privileged! It’s called The Perfect Song and has just been released as a single on my new album Both Sides Now. I’m going out on the road with it in April and May for a UK tour. In fact part of the tour is a bit of a tribute to Andrew, so if you’re a fan of his there’s plenty of enjoyable stuff. I love touring!”

Do you ever tire of signing Love Changes Everything?
“I really don’t. I know how much people love the song. Also I’d be a bit churlish if I didn’t sing it and didn’t realise what it had done for me.”
 
What’s your favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber piece to perform?
“I love Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s a hard song to sing because it’s lyrical, has a big rock section and is an emotional sing – both for the actor and the audience. But it contains such drama and I think that’s the best kind of musical theatre. It’s astounding to think Andrew wrote it when he was 20! He’s achieved so much in 40 years. I don’t know what I’d be doing, but I don’t think I’d be where I am now without him.”