Discover Michael Ball's theatre roles, music career, and more

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Love changes everything – but one thing that hasn’t changed is Michael Ball’s devotion to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Aspects of Love. 34 years after starring in the original West End production, Ball is back headlining a revival at the Lyric Theatre in London. He’s now playing the role of George, while Jamie Bogyo (who made his professional debut as Christian in Moulin Rouge! The Musical) takes on the part of Alex, which Ball originated back in 1989.

The show was a hugely important moment in Ball’s career. Although he was already an established stage actor by that point, it won him legions of new fans and a whole new level of celebrity thanks to the release of a song that Ball performed in Aspects of Love, “Love Changes Everything”, as a single. It went on to reach number two in the UK Singles Chart and stayed in the chart for an impressive 15 weeks – becoming Ball’s signature tune in the process.

Ahead of the return of Aspects of Love to the West End, get to know more about Michael Ball’s incredible career in musical theatre and beyond with our definitive guide – plus what we can expect from the new production of this Lloyd Webber classic.

Book Aspects of Love tickets on London Theatre.

LT - CTA - 250

Michael Ball’s theatre work

Ball was born in Worcestershire in 1962, and moved to Dartmoor when he was three. He learnt to sing at a young age just by accompanying music played at home, like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. His father also stoked his love of theatre by taking him to see the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he went on to join a youth theatre and then study drama at the Guildford School of Acting.

Ball made his professional debut in Godspell at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, then went on to perform in The Pirates of Penzance at Manchester Opera House following rigorous auditions. But it was his next job that made his name: a modest little show called Les Misérables.

Ball originated the key role of Marius, the young student revolutionary who falls in love with Jean Valjean’s adopted daughter Cosette – and doesn’t realise, until she’s dying in his arms, that Eponine is in love with him.

Michael Ball -  750 - LT

Producer Cameron Mackintosh then asked Ball to join another of his shows: The Phantom of the Opera. Ball played Raoul in the second ever cast of the show, when Michael Crawford and Steve Barton (the original Phantom and Raoul respectively) went to Broadway. Ball played Raoul in the West End for a year — this time, on the losing side of an iconic musical love triangle.

Ball’s next project was Aspects of Love, which he’ll soon be reprising. Based on David Garnett’s novella, the musical is about the complex and contrasting romantic entanglements involving actress Rose, her superfan Alex, Alex’s uncle George, George’s mistress Giulietta, and, later on, Rose’s daughter Jenny. Ball played Alex in the original West End production and also on Broadway.

Ball is also renowned as a keen interpreter of Sondheim, beginning with a tour of Passion, in which he played Giorgio. Then he did the first of many one-man shows at the Donmar Warehouse, before leaping into another big West End musical: playing Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

He reunited with Lloyd Webber for a concert version of Sunset Boulevard at the Cork Opera House, which was broadcast by the BBC, and then played the evil Count Fosco in The Woman in White (again succeeding Michael Crawford, who had to withdraw on health grounds) in the West End and on Broadway. He also made several forays into opera: he made his New York City Opera debut in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, and led Kismet for the ENO.

Michael Ball Edna - 750 - LT

But it was musical theatre that gave Ball another iconic role: the cross-dressing star turn of Edna Turnblad, who is liberated by her dance-mad daughter Tracy, in the swinging sixties show Hairspray. Ball won an Olivier Award for his fabulous West End performance, which he then reprised on tour, and, over a decade on, in a new production at the London Coliseum.

It was back to Sondheim, and rather darker fare, next: Sweeney Todd, starring as the murderous barber alongside Imelda Staunton’s canny pie-maker Mrs Lovett. The show began at Chichester and then transferred to the West End, with both Ball and Staunton winning Oliviers. Ball later returned to Chichester for the musical Mack and Mabel.

Most recently, Ball played Anatoly Sergievsky in Chess at the Coliseum, and then starred as Javert in two all-star Les Mis concerts in the West End. He also made several contributions to the moving tribute concert Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends.

Michael Ball’s recording work

“Love Changes Everything” is far from Ball’s only hit as a recording artist. He has released numerous albums, including several popular collaborations with Alfie Boe, and has toured extensively – as a soloist, and also with Boe.

Michael Ball - 750 - LT

Ball reached number 20 in the UK chart with his 1992 Eurovision Song Contest Entry, “One Step Out of Time”, and also did impressively in that year’s Sweden-hosted competition (particularly considering our usual rankings!). He finished second to Linda Martin from Ireland.

Ball has also produced work with everyone from Julian Lloyd Webber to Burt Bacharach, Tim Rice and fundraising hero Captain Tom Moore. He teamed up with the latter for a cover of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, which reached number one in 2020.

Michael Ball’s TV work

Ball made an appearance in long-running TV soap Coronation Street back in 1985. But he made his name more as a TV presenter, helming his own eponymous show for a couple of years – on which he performed himself, and hosted musical guests ranging from Take That and the Bee Gees to James Brown. He also presented and guest-presented shows like Soapstar Superstar, Lorraine, The One Show, and The Paul O’Grady Show.

Ball also reprised his stage work in several tribute shows, such as one to lyricist Don Black, which was shown on BBC Four, and fronted ITV concert shows with his long-time collaborator Alfie Boe. He played himself in a very funny cameo appearance in the sitcom Toast of London, and was a contestant on a celebrity version of Catchphrase.

Michael Ball - 750 - LT

One of Ball’s most substantial acting roles on screen was in 2014 in Victoria Wood’s BBC musical drama That Day We Sang, about the reunion of a children’s choir. Ball starred as Jimmy aka Tubby, opposite his Sweeney Todd co-star Imelda Staunton as Enid. It also linked back to another strong acting performance from Ball: the 1995 historical film England, My England, in which Ball played the composer Purcell – whose "Nymphs and Shepherds" was the piece sung by the choir.

Michael Ball returns to Aspects of Love

It will be fascinating to see how director Jonathan Kent presents this tricksy musical for a new generation. It’s inspired by some of the real-life boundary-pushing couplings of the Bloomsbury Group: David Garnett, who wrote the novella that it’s based on, was bisexual and had affairs with several members, including Duncan Grant – whose daughter, Angelica, he later married.

That intergenerational attraction is repeated in various forms in Aspects of Love, which begins in 1947 with a French actress, Rose, and a British teenage fan, Alex – then becomes a complex love triangle when she falls for his art-forger uncle, George (who also has an Italian sculptor mistress, Giulietta). In act two, Rose’s daughter Jenny also gets involved with this intense amorous chaos.

Lloyd Webber worked with Don Black and Charles Hart on the musical version, which premiered at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1989 – directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne. Ball starred as Alex, and James Bond himself (aka Roger Moore) was due to play George, but withdrew just before opening. The show had a strong run in the West End, but didn’t translate over the pond: the Broadway version flopped, possibly because what is really a chamber piece was given the mega-musical treatment.

There have been various revivals over the years, including a 2007 tour starring David Essex, a Trevor Nunn-helmed revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2010 with Dave Willetts and Rosalie Craig, and a Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, revival in 2018 which transferred to London’s Southwark Playhouse. This latter reflected several changes to the work.

So, what will we get in 2023, post-MeToo and other reckonings with the power balance in relationships? And how will Ball approach this new role in a work that is such a core part of his theatre history and identity? It’s one of the most intriguing openings of the season — watch this space!

Photo credit: Michael Ball, The Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray, Eurovision Song Contest, and That Day We Sang (Photos courtesy of production, the Eurovision Song Contest, and That Day We Sang respectively)

Originally published on

Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock exclusive London theatre updates!

Special offers, reviews and release dates for the best shows in town.

You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy