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Michael Ball - alone together

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The Interviews
 


 

Sheridan Morley - Arts Programme
Matt Wolf - Sunday Telegraph
Ned Sherrin - Loose Ends
Ed Seckerson - Stage and Screen
Ed Stewart - Radio 2
Steve Massam - Radio Humberside
Judi Spiers - Radio Devon
Musical Stages



Sheridan Morley - The Arts Programme, BBC Radio 2

SM - Now, coming back to the CD, you also have Divas at the Donmar.  This used to be a very female tradition, with the great Barbara Cook. This year in fact it's you, Clive Rowe and Sian Philips, the only woman…

MB - I heard Sian on the programme a few weeks ago.

SM - She was on the programme a couple of weeks ago.   These are really cabaret evenings.  Now you are to do a week at the Donmar.  Are you going to do the CD?

MB - No.  I'm doing two weeks there.  Sam Mendes phoned and asked if I'd be interested in doing it.

SM - A male diva.

MB - A male diva.  A divum.  I call it Dudes at the Donmar!  And he said this is an opportunity for you to do something really different.  And that is exactly what I've done.  The prerequisites of the show before I started piecing it together were I wouldn't sing any song I'd ever sung before, I wouldn't use any instrument except the piano

SM - The great Jason Carr.

MB - Yeah, and I wouldn't speak to the audience.  It's all going to be a story told through songs, through different kinds of songs.

SM - What kind of story?

MB - It's the story of a performer.  What inspires you to go onto a stage, what it's like to be on a stage, how it's amazingly fulfilling at the time, but then there's a great emptiness at the end of it, so then you look for other things.  I've got three weeks left, so I'm still working on it.

SM - Do you mean new songs, or new songs to you?

MB - New songs to me, new songs period, a couple of interesting things that Sondheim has reworked.  There's a wonderful old Peggy Lee song written by Lieber and Stoller, Is That All There Is?.  Well, Eve Ensler has rewritten the verses.

SM -  Hey, fantastic.

MB - Yeah, and if you're listening Mr Lieber and Stoller, please give us permission, because…

SM - I've always thought that was their greatest number, and for her….

MB - It's fantastic.

SM - … about the house burning down?

MB - Yeah, and it's as a kid, taken to the circus and is that all there is.  Well Eve has rewritten it.  Eve is the lady who wrote The Vagina Monologues.  And she's rewritten it.  We explained the show and the character, and she just writes like it's a conversation.  It's some wonderful, wonderful verses, so we're hoping we can use that.

SM - It's more than just a concert.

MB - It's not a concert at all.  I kind of knew that everybody, be they fans or critics, or ordinary theatregoers would be coming to the theatre expecting something from me, and I want everybody to leave thinking 'Wow, we really, really didn't expect that', and I hope they'll go 'Wow, we really didn't expect that and it was brilliant'.

SM - And just to clarify it opens at the Donmar on the 17th of September.  And it runs for two weeks.   Now if it works there, are you going to take it elsewhere?

MB - If it's got legs, absolutely.  We're sold out now, which is great, so I know we've got an audience, and if there is an interest and we can see a way of moving it - it's specifically for the Donmar space.  If there's a way of finding a space where it can work elsewhere…

SM - Do you have a director for it?

MB - Yes.  Jonathan Butterell.  He's devising and directing.  I worked with Jonathan on Passion, initially.  And we've formed this great triumvirate, myself and Jonathan and Jason.

Sunday Telegraph - 16 September 2001

Golden voice changes his tune

Michael Ball, the West End's favourite son, is giving his usual repertoire a rest to spend two weeks doing intimate cabaret. 'It's as if I don't want to be me,' he tells Matt Wolf

In an airless rehearsal room off Marylebone High Street, the singer Michael Ball, for so long the golden voice of the West End, is revisiting his glory days in preparation for a one-off concert with the opera singer Lesley Garrett.

He belts out the show-stoppers that have brought lumps to thousands of (mainly female) throats and tears to thousands of (mainly female) eyes.  "Anywhere you go, I will go, too," he booms, unleashing the full strength of his crowd-pleasing, high baritone in a hit from Phantom of the Opera.

"You're such a natural, talented, wonderful, instinctive musician," coos Garrett, not altogether seriously.
"Girlfriend, throw down that gauntlet," he cracks back before ripping into his signature tune, Love Changes Everything.

The song - from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love, the 1989 musical that first made him a star - requires Ball to hit two high B flats, which, he reminds Garrett, he used to have to deliver eight times a week, twice on Wednesdays and Saturdays. "None of this opera bollocks," he says, "where you maybe show up twice a week."  The teasing is both good-humoured and revealing.  Ball turns 40 next year - the thought makes him wince - and he has decided to cast a long, hard look over his technically punishing but all too easily mocked repertory.  There's a lot to look at: 10 solo albums, all of which went gold, with three TV series slotted in between, eight UK tours, four Royal Variety performances and a Blackpool Illuminations gig - in which the mayor told him, "Of all the Blackpool Illuminations turner-onners we've had, you're one of the top." But now Ball wants to change his tune.

From tomorrow, and for the next fortnight, he will be taking time out from his well-worn routine of mega-concerts to sing - alone but for a pianist - in the intimate and extremely fashionable Donmar Warehouse. The place holds 250 people, as opposed to the 12,000 who have paid to hear him belt out his standards with Lesley Garrett.  Although the Donmar run sold out within days, you can safely say he's not playing there for the money.  "At these prices? It's costing me to do this."

The risk is not simply financial.  There won't be a single note of Lloyd Webber in his set, which will include songs by David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Radiohead and Adam Guettel, an innovative young American composer who happens to be Richard Rodgers' grandson.

"I love my big halls and my concert shows with the orchestra; I love it, but you don't want to keep doing it.  I wanted to see if I could do a show without any safety net at all.  I don't want any of the razzmatazz.  I'm not going to talk to the audience - it's almost as if I don't want to be me," says Ball, describing the evening as cabaret with a through-line linking the songs.

It may sound like a mid-life crisis, but Ball is wise enough to know that you can't peddle the same wares for ever.  For years, he was the West End's favourite son, one of the few to pass through the Lloyd Webber/Cameron Mackintosh musical machine - a treadmill known for its anonymity - and emerge a star.  (Elaine Paige is probably the only other.)  In many ways it was accidental.  He studied acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, not singing - and it was some time before he realised he was not just an actor with a good voice, but a genuine singer.  "If I'm realistic, I know I communicate better through music than I would through speaking."

He has what he calls "a natural voice - I just hear the notes in my head and they come out", and although he cannot read music, inevitably experience has helped him fine-hone his technique.  (The Broadway diva Patti LuPone taught him, he says, the value of the "money note".)  After playing Marius in Les Misérables, he graduated to Phantom and Aspects, repeating the latter show on Broadway, and was the gigolo Joe Gillis in the first workshop of Sunset Boulevard.  In 1997, he turned his back on the world of British musical behemoths to lead a far riskier venture, Stephen Sondheim's Passion, into the West End, playing the lovesick Giorgio.  His co-star Maria Friedman won the Olivier Award, but Ball got the much desired boost to his street cred and Sondheim wrote him a new number, I Love Fosca.  "It was about not just wanting to be typecast," says Ball, "about not wanting to limit what I'm allowed to do myself.
"Part of the reason I did Passion was because there had been so much Michael Ball, the personality, the TV series and blah blah that I thought, if I don't watch it, there will be no way back. People would be thinking, that's not Giorgio; that's Michael Ball, and I'd hate that."

But where does this need to escape his limits leave his fans - more than 80 per cent of them female - who will travel the length and breadth of Britain to see their favourite singer in the flesh?  (In Grimsby, he was once mobbed by 40 women in the street.)  They love to hear Ball in the soaring mock-Puccini of Phantom or to see him hosting the National Lottery.  How will they deal with the rejection of the old style that the Donmar run suggests?

Ball denies that he is turning his back on them, though he takes droll issue with my suggestion that they want to mother him: "I'm not sure it's mothering they want to do. At least, that's not how my mother mothered me; I'm not doing Oedipus.  "People say, 'Don't you think it's sad that you see the same people coming to every night of every show,' and I say, 'No, why the hell not? There is a camaraderie.' It's a two-way traffic. I'm just very open; I'm not afraid to show emotion, and I like people to show me their emotion."  In any case, he says, "they know there's a reason I'm doing this at the Donmar and some, I'm sure, will come along and absolutely hate it.  But I'm not saying everything I've done in the past I'm now negating; this is a new direction." Indeed, Ball has a major UK tour planned starting next May, preceded by one to the Antipodes and the Far East:  "The Michael Ball that everybody knows is not disappearing overnight."

It's simply that the bravura technician behind Love Changes Everything - in an American pastiche the song was called I Sleep With Everyone - feels he will be stranded if he doesn't diversify soon.  "I've been around long enough and there are plenty of actors my age, with my look, who would be far easier to cast than me," he admits.

As for television, "I look at it now and think: What is there? A quiz show? There are no entertainment shows, no music shows. I don't actually see a vehicle that would be right for me." He poses the underlying question: "What do I do for the next 15 years?"

Ball hopes his new show might supply the answer and that it will have a life beyond the Donmar run, possibly involving him as director instead of performer. That's assuming that he makes it past opening night.  "I'll be so nervous, I'll probably have cancelled by then."  In which case, he laughs, "I'll be showing everybody pictures of my trip to Peru."  And you know what? If he did, those fans would probably forgive him.
 


Loose Ends, BBC Radio 4 - Ned Sherrin

MB - The thing about the Donmar is its full of songs I've never sung before, songs I've never recorded before and at the last count there were 58.  58 songs and bits of songs

NS - So it's a 5 hour show.

MB - I'm trying to learn it at the moment and it's crazy but its something I'm determined to do -  nothing I could rely on.

NS - The space is a huge difference from Last Night of the Proms, Rugby World Cup, the Queen's 50th Anniversary, West District Council inauguration…

MB - [laughing] That was a biggy, yeah.  That was kind of the point.  Sam Mendes phoned me.  I had obviously heard of the series though I hadn't seen any of the shows.  The opportunity arose.  He said, here's a great space, a great opportunity to make a departure.  And I thought you could either do this half-heartedly and try some new material but include some old favourites, or I could try and do something radically different which is what I've decided to do.

No songs that I've ever sung before. Some songs that have never been heard before.  Rewriting of new material.  I'm only using a piano.  A lot of what I do with the concerts is my rapport with the audience, talking to the audience and I'm not going to do that either.


Extract of Interview with Ed Seckerson for Stage and Screen -

broadcast 17 September 2001
ES - You're coming back to the sort of scarier environment of the Donmar Warehouse

MB - Ooh, yes!

ES -  where you could reach out and touch almost everyone of your audience.

MB - And they can touch me [laughing]

ES - Which we're just thrilled about.  With just a piano.

MB - Yes.

ES - Is it actually going to be very scary?

MB - I am more frightened about this I think than anything else.  The more you get used to things the easier things are.  You know, so now to go out in front of 20,000 people to sing.  I can deal with that.  I've done that before, and  I know how to do that.  When  I got a call from Sam Mendes, first of all I thought they were having a laugh.  What are they talking about?  What's the male version of a Diva?

ES - It's you, Michael.

MB -  [laughing]  Thank you!  Is it divo?  Divum of divus?  I don't know what the derivation is.   I sat and thought about it.  I didn't actually think about it for very long.  I just went yeah, I'm doing it.  I didn't have a clue what I was going to do.  They didn't either. They just said here's the space.  It's yours for two weeks.  It was exactly the challenge that I wanted.  It's come at absolutely the right time.

I've been sort of being led back towards the theatre.  It's a long time for me to be out of it.  And my reputation was made in the theatre, my love is for theatre, but I haven't been able to find the right thing to come back.  I'm not juve lead anymore.  That's for sure.  I'm in that leading man age group, and the shows aren't there for me at the moment, that I've seen, so I wanted to dip my toe in.  And having been presented with this opportunity, the Donmar, to do whatever I wanted with it.  There was only one direction to go. And that is to do something that I've never never done before, so I made these prerequisites for myself.  I'm not going to sing any song I've ever sung before in my repertoire.  There will be no support.  I normally travel with three backing singers, a twelve piece band, and then augmented with strings.  I want nothing like that.   I just want a piano.   And I want a set.  That's the premise.

All I  want is to work with a director who I like and I trust, and a great musical director who I've never worked with before.  Those were my guidelines.  And I've got Jason Carr, who's doing the musical direction, who's just such an amazing pianist, and who is steeped in musical theatre.  Things that  I wouldn't know anything about, the most obscure pieces and ideas and things.  Jonathan Butterell, who's really a big up and coming director - he's going to make a big name for himself - but we had worked together.  He did the musical staging on Passion, and since then he's been working with Sam as his assistant director on things.  So the three of us sat down and constructed this - we are constructing, this evening - there's only one other thing I said that it was important to me that I didn't do, and that was to speak.  Now a big part of what I do when I do my concerts is to talk to the audience, as we were saying before, to communicate, to share ideas and experiences, why I came across this song, why I chose this song, amusing things that happened.  I said I don't even necessarily want to be me.  I'm not saying I'm not me, but I'm not saying I am.  I want it all to be up to the audience to make up their mind.  What they think they're seeing and what they think they're being told.

ES - That's quite brave.

MB - Quite? [laughing] It's bleedin' stupid.  It's what was needed.  I want everybody to go there and go hopefully wow, but certainly to say that really isn't what we expected.  He has taken a risk here, he has challenged himself, because that's mostly what it's about, because the only reason for doing this is to challenge myself and be brave.


Extract of Interview with Ed Stewart on BBC Radio 2- 23 September 2001

It's a really unusual thing I've decided to do.  I had a call from Sam Mendes, who runs the Donmar - you know he's directed American Beauty and he's won Oscars, and he's a mega talent.  And he asked if I'd come and do two weeks at the Donmar and develop a one man show.  So I decided I would, but I wanted to change everything, turn what I've been doing on it's head, so I made the stipulation that I wouldn't sing anything I've ever sung before.  And it's really a piece of theatre.  It explores the life of a performer just through song.  I don't talk to the audience.  Everything is done just
through songs and I'm really really proud of it.  The reaction has been fantastic.

ES - When you say you don't talk to the audience, you sing to them, give me an example?

MB - For example, the character sings about his relationship with his mother and his father.  His father deserted him when he was a young boy, and he was a drunk, so a song that I grew up with, a song called Little Pal, I sort of sing in the character of the father, and then in reply the character sings The Man That Got Away, referring to his father.  The relationship with my mother is If you Were the Only Girl in the World which is another song my Mum used to sing to me, followed by Say a Little Prayer.

ES - Super stuff!

MB - It's clever little - and the way you can - the way the character becomes cynical with showbusiness.  So it's a lot of popular songs that people will  know, but twisted.  And also songs people won't know.  We've got things from Radiohead, from David Bowie, from Duke Ellington, from Al Jolson, Judy Garland.  You know, it's an amazing journey.


Extract from Interview with Steve Massam - Radio Humberside

MB - I got a call from [Sam Mendes] and he asked me if I'd come down and do two weeks there and devise a new show, do something very different and surprise some people.  So I did.

SM - Surprised yourself!

MB - I did.  I frightened myself to death.  It was - I decided to give myself no safety net, to do something really different.  So I didn't include… It was a piece of theatre, musical theatre if you like, kind of exploring the life of a performer, looking at his relationships with parents and lovers and friends, and relationship with an audience, what it takes to get up onto a stage, but I wanted to try and tell the story just through song so there was no talking to the audience.  Each song led on to another.  And tried to explain the psyche of this character.  And I also only wanted to only sing songs that I'd never sung before.  So there was no safety net, there was no at least we know we're doing  Love Changes Everything in a minute so it'll be fine.  And I also just wanted to use a piano.  So it was very experimental, very brave, I think, and some would have said foolish.  But it went really well.  It was one of the most challenging and exciting couple of weeks I've ever had

SM - And you lived to tell the tale.  When you say it was the story of a performer, I have to say, is that your story?

MB - Well a lot of it is drawn from my own experiences, yeah, but not entirely.  It's other people as well.  And knowing the business like I do, so it's fairly generic but there are a lot of autobiographical points in it.  But that was kind of left for the audience to get their own handle on, to see what they thought I was saying, and they were having to take a journey.  It was as hard work for them as it was for me just to get the emotional content.  We've filmed it as well, and I'm editing it at the moment.

SM - So the audience came unknowing then?

MB - Yeah, they really did.  I tried to sort of - in interviews and things - to warn people that it wasn't just a smaller version of what I do at a large venue.  That it was going to be something different.  The very fact that it was at the Donmar Warehouse kind of intimated to people that  it was going to be a departure.  And the reaction was extraordinary.  Fans who have followed what I do and kind of thought they knew what I was all about were really rather taken aback and really went on the journey with me.  I was really proud of it.

SM- How do you as a performer adjust to that in your voice?  You have a big performance voice, so you really had to rearrange…

MB - Well, I think you -  it's not just a big voice.  I've developed over the years a far more - through doing recording really, a sotto voce voice - there's posh isn't it.

SM - Excuse me, This is up North here.

MB [northern accent] Singing quiet like.  Not yelling. which I adapted it in the shows.  It's rather like the difference between singing on a stage and singing in a recording studio.  When I make an album,
You can't perform those songs as you would on the stage because the microphone really represents somebody's ear, so you don't want to yell into somebody's ear. It'll put 'em off.  It's far more personal and intimate and up close.  That's the only sort of, mind you there are still some big yelly belty bits in there.

SM - You really have to think about the kind of variety that you do, when all you have is the voice and the piano.

MB - Yeah, and a lot of it then becomes about performance, about acting.  It's taking songs and putting a new spin on them.  We closed Act I with a very dark version of There's No Business Like Showbusiness, which was done very cynically and half of it in a half tempo.  It's hard to describe it.  It's one of those things you had to be there to see it.  But it makes people actually think about the lyrics that are being sung, and maybe seeing them in a different way, and my interposing strange - I did a song by Radiohead called Nice Dream, which seguèd into Duke Ellington's Solitude.  Which sounds very strange, but when you do it with just the voice and piano the musical genres mix.  They do work very well.  And they tell a story.

SM - I think it's fair to say you like a challenge.

MB - Yeah, I do.  I really do.  And I think it's important as well.  You can get into a rut.  You can find you're doing the same thing over and over again. It's important to stretch yourself.  You have to take risks and say look, this is also what I do.  And make an audience think.

Extract from Interview with Judi Spiers - Radio Devon

MB - I decided to get rid of everything that was a security blanket, so the first thing

So, there's no Love Changes Everything in there, no Empty Chairs, there's no security spot to land on. The other thing is, you can hear, I like to talk, so I'm not going to talk to the audience, I'm not going to be me.  I'm going to tell a story.  People can make their own mind up about whether it's me or another person.  But the journey this character's going to take in the show is going to be inspired by the song he just sang.  And I'm only going to use a piano.  So there's no backing singers, no orchestra.  Nothing.  Just the bare essentials, nothing on the stage and see if I can sustain a show for two hours just doing that.  And it was just thrilling.

JS - So what did you sing?

MB - In all, 60 songs or part songs.

JS - And these were all songs you'd never sung before.

MB - Never sung before in my life, and they were songs from every area of music, for instance I did this medley to open Act II, of really big showstoppers - actually I'm lying I did a line of Love Changes Everything, but it went "Love, love changes/Everything's coming up roses".  So this enormous medley, which lasted about 10 minutes, contained 30 songs, which stopped the show. Fantastic.  Then we'd go to a blackout and then the light would come up and I sang Nice Dream by Radiohead seguéd into Solitude from Duke Ellington, to show how a performer feels once you've done that huge thing, you've had the applause but you're left on your own.

Little Pal going into The Man That Got Away, which was the story of the relationship with his father.  His father was abusive, sang Little Pal to him before he left, and walked out of his life.  Hence the guy singing The Man That Got Away.  It's not a torch song.  It's about the guy losing his father.

JS - What's Little Pal?  I don't know that one.

MB - "Little Pal/When Daddy goes away/Promise you'll be good/From day to day".  It's an old Al Jolson number.  And I did things like Is There Life on Mars, David Bowie.

JS - How exciting!

MB - It was an amazing journey.  Devised and directed by Sam Mendes's sort of protégé at the Donmar, Jonathan Butterell.  We've filmed it, and I'm actually editing the video at the moment.

JS - Oh good.

MB - It's a complete departure.  Really not what anybody was expecting.

JS - What was the response like?

MB - Just brilliant.  Really brilliant.  The musical theatre critics came and really got it, and were so pleased that I was doing something - and they understood the risk I was taking.

~

MB - I can put a concert together, and most of the time you want to know that you're heading for those moments, that you're going to land on a certain song that you know will get a good response for it.  And you do want that.  This was a theatre.  It holds 250 people, that are virtually on the stage with you.  So there's no amplification, there's no set, no costume. It's like singing to someone in your front room.  How thrilling is that?

JS - You sort of think of Frank Sinatra in a smoky old bar.

MB -  That's exactly right.  But in order to develop what you do, to grow as a performer, and find new things, new challenges.  You need to take those risks.  That show couldn't work in any other place than the Donmar.  There are elements of it that I can take, I can focus my mind and I can bring those things into the new concerts.

JS - Also, I think it must be good for you.  Everybody's always saying
the greatest show voice ever, the greatest show voice in the world,
the greatest …  Just to sing songs like that,  Bowie or Radiohead, just to show people 'Yeah I can do that, but I can do this other voice as well'.

MB - It's also to break barriers down.  Of people saying that isn't the kind of material that is suitable.  And you say, well just listen to this.  And it works.

JS - A good voice is a good voice.


Extract from Musical Stages - interview by Linda Trapnell - January 2002

But first, I asked him about the genesis of his Divas at the Donmar production that was such a roaring success.  Whose idea was it?

"It came about through a phone call from Sam Mendes asking if I would consider doing the season.  I hmm'd and haah'd and knew I wouldn't want to do what I do at the Albert Hall, so I said I was interested but didn't really know what I wanted to do.  Then Sam rang me from location where he was doing that big new movie with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman (which was pretty impressive).  I talked it through with him and he thought it was an opportunity to try something different.  I knew we would need someone to direct and help devise it and come up with some ideas, which is when Jonathan Butterell came into the frame.  I'd worked with him - it was early in his career - when I did Passion and I got on really well with him.  He was so helpful.  He was supposed to be just doing musical staging but he had great insight into other things.  I hadn't seen him since then, but discovered he'd been doing some great stuff.  Se wo met and the initial conversation was inspirational.  He saw I was up for doing something completely different and he went away and ran with the idea and just took it further than I'd ever imagined."

Our review of the show is in this issue [see Critics] and as I told Michael, everyone I know who saw it was bowled over.  Those of you who were also there will remember the extraordinary opening to the second act that joined together so many different songs.

"That was always how that second act opening was gong to be.  Jonathan and Jason Carr, our MD, are just brilliant and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of musical theatre.  They know things like who was the second take-over in the 1959 tour of Brigadoon in Seattle.  I have to say I don't, I'm pretty average about it.  So we had the premise and if we were going to do something different, then I had to strip everything away so I had nothing to rely on.  So it wasn't a cabaret set-up.  No stool, no musicians except for Jason, no microphone, then they said, "And no songs you've ever sung before.  Everything has to be completely fresh.  No make-up, no costume changes.  No glamour!" and it just intrigued me so much."

He laughs at the memory of the challenge.

"I thought, "Can I actually do this?  Can I pull off something with no safety net - not even a song I can land on which people will know I've sung before and they'll think "Great, he's singing Empty Chairs or something else familiar."

Except for that line from Aspects of Love?

"Yes, I said I didn't care what else was in the medley but we had to have 'Love changes/Everything's coming up roses' which set the seal on it.  There were thirty songs in that medley and sixty song or parts of songs in the whole show."

That was a hell of a learning curve?

"Oh, can we talk - and I'm not the best!  The lyrics of every song were approached as a piece of text. Every phrase had a meaning, not necessarily the original one.  I'm not good at learning text but lyrics, music that means something, they'll go in.  I don't know how it happened but it happened very quickly.  Everything just fell into place.  Piecing the show together, we knew where we were starting, where we were finishing and what the sections were going to be.  They were relationships with mother, father, lover and a descent into self-abuse and drink and drugs and experimentation, going into relationships, going into theatre, going into a breakdown then a quest for a higher spirit.  We knew the arc of the show and the songs just came.  We'd say, 'You know what, it would be really interesting to put this song next to that song.'  Then there were songs that really meant a lot to me personally when I was growing up - for instance Little Pal that my Gran and my Mum used to sing to me - If I Were the Only Girl in the World was another.  We wanted to use those, but every song had to be twisted or reversed in some way to take the journey through."

"Well, it worked", I say.

"Do you think so?"

"God yes - and I'm delighted there is a video."

"Well, they asked me to transfer the show to the West End and I said, 'No'.  The show was so specific for that space, that time and where I was and it would have needed re-staging and would have lost the essence of what it was.  We were going to take it to New York but the events of 11 September meant postponement and now it has been put on hold.  But I was so proud of it and knew if we didn't video it, it would be gone.  I'd worked too hard and I wanted it to have a life.  I was very concerned about the filming because it is an intimate space and it's a very theatrical piece and I thought it might look over the top on screen, but it really doesn't.  It's not flattering, it ain't beautiful, I sweat, I've no make-up on..."

"... you mean it's real..."

"It's dead real!  And I have no problem with it at all.  There are some vocal flaws and I didn't repair anything, we didn't re-shoot anything.  We filmed on the Wednesday and Thursday with the audiences in and we took all of the Thursday night's performance."

"How many cameras did you have?"

"I think they had six - but only three would ever be working at the same time.  Jonathan especially is brilliant.  He lived and breathed this and so we went together into the editorial suite and basically edited it ourselves.  In the sequence that goes from Remind Me into I Wish I Could Forget You from Passion, I felt that we should keep the focus on my face, particularly the eyes, and it just works.  I think the one thing that doesn't come across in the video is the medley.  It was so theatrical that it could only work live in the theatre.  You can't get that on a piece of film."

"You had to be there!"

"Yes.  It was great watching people's different reactions.  We had a really mixed audience.  We had the die-hard fans, we had the die-hard Divas at the Donmar fans, we had the curious 'I wonder what he's going to do, will he be total rubbish"' - all of them with a preconception of what they were going to see."

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Site Established December 2001, by Barbara Uram and Debbie Norris

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