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I’ve been a member of the Michael Ball Fan Club ever since I saw him in Les Miserables in Concert on PBS in 1995 or 96. Michael is an enormously popular star of the musical theater in England, but not, alas, so well known here in the U.S. The first time I saw him in person was in 2004 when he came to do two concerts in Salt Lake City. The whole Southern California branch of the fan club flew to Utah for those concerts and a luncheon with Michael. We met fans from all over the U.S., England, and Europe. (I thus more or less understand why people fly around the country to go to football games.)
The next time I saw him was in New York in 2005 when he starred as Reginald Bunthorne, the Oscar Wildean poet, in the New York City Opera’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience. Below is the photo another fan took shortly after he came up the steps from the stage door and I said, “Michael, sign my chest!” He signed the T-shirt. It says "Love Sick Maiden," which is the first song in the operetta. The female chorus is discovered, and they begin singing, "Twenty love-sick maidens, we, Love-sick all against our will." They're in love with Bunthorne, who loves to be loved. But he's a poseur who writes wretched poetry, an aesthete (like Wilde in real life), and he's in love with the village milkmaid, Patience. But Patience, who has never been in love, wants to know how love can be distinguished from insanity. When another aesthetic poet arrives, Bunthorne offers himself up as a lottery prize to the maidens. Whereupon follow complications involving the dragoon guards to whom the maidens used to be engaged, the other aesthetic poet, and some wonderfully witty songs.
My autographed T-shirt is now the background of a collage of photos and Gilbert's lyrics hanging on my bedroom wall. One of my friends said it was a hanging altar and had the gall to compare me to a tweeny fan of the Jonas Brothers. I had to ask around to find out who they were. So imagine my amazement when I saw the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miz and saw a Jonas brother singing Marius, Michael's role. Poor child. He doesn't sing nearly as well as Michael. I have another autographed T-shirt, too. That's the one I wear. Michael is generous and kind and always accessible to his fans when they gather at stage doors and ask for autographs and photos.
In 2007, when I went to England, I saw him in Kismet. Though it was an unsatisfactory production (lousy scenery and choreography, but great singing), he was splendid as the poet-beggar Hajj. I've been a fan of Kismet since I first heard the LP with Alfred Drake as Hajj (the 1953 production). I wish I could have seen Drake in person!
I also have a Michael Ball calendar and Michael wallpaper on my computer. It’s a collection of photos (including the two you see here) taken by fans at stage doors in British theaters. I have it set so I get a new photo every half hour. I own all of his CDs and keep them in my car. If you ride with me, I will turn Michael down, but I will not turn him off. And I have all of his DVDs. Mostly concerts. Mostly from England. Which is why I own an all-region DVD player.
My friends laugh because I belong to a fan club, but I think it’s great fun. All of Michael’s fans are in madly love with him. Find out for yourself what a terrific singer he is. Go to YouTube--with your sound on!--and you can click on a whole bunch of clips of him singing. (He is very young in some of these clips.) You can also go to his official web site.