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Girls Aloud Shayne Ward Jamelia | Opera Gala | The Hills are Alive |Tân y Ddraig

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Michael Ball

Michael Ball, Britain's leading musical star and the Variety Club Best Recording Artiste for 1998, has starred on Broadway and dominated many leading West End shows for over twenty years. A dynamic performer and charismatic talent, Michael has won critical acclaim and the hearts of the public with his numerous performances on stage, film and television. Michael’s solo albums have all held commanding positions in the UK charts, all rapidly going gold within weeks of their release.

Michael’s West End credits include Marius in Cameron Mackintosh and the RSC’s production of Les Miserables, Raoul in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, Alex in Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love (and on Broadway), Giorgio in Stephen Sondheim's musical Passion and his award winning Count Fosco in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Woman In White (and on Broadway).

In 1992 Michael represented Great Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest. His entry ‘One Step Out of Time’, reached a worldwide audience of over 600 million and topped the UK singles chart. His debut album, ‘Michael Ball’, swiftly followed suit. His success as a solo artist lead to a sell out national tour concluding at the London Palladium, and performances in front of HM The Queen at both Her Majesty's 40th Anniversary Gala and The Royal Variety Show.

Michael's musical career developed further in 1993 when, taking the role of Tony, he made a recording of West Side Story with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He released his second album Always, which entered the UK charts at number three and remained in the top 20 for 10 weeks. The album was supported by a 30 date sellout national tour and at Christmas he conceived and directed his own Christmas Special, performing in major regional theatre and in London. It was during 1993 that Michael sang with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in front of a capacity audience at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena, and he launched his television show Michael Ball.

In 1994 ‘One Careful Owner’ quickly went gold. Michael narrated The Cameron Mackintosh Story for BBC Radio 2, as well as guest DJ for their prime time show. He recorded a second TV series and hosted guests such as James Brown, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Cher, Joe Cocker, Erasure, Darryl Hall, Lulu, George Martin and Robert Palmer.  The year was rounded off with a national sellout tour and the release of ‘The Best of Michael Ball’ which earned Michael his fourth gold disc in three years.

In 1995 Michael starred in three major open air concerts in Exeter, Woburn Abbey and at Ludlow Castle with the BBC Big Band.  He sang at the opening ceremonies of the European Youth Olympics in Bath and the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham.  He performed for The Queen at the VE Day 50th Anniversary Concert at Hyde Park, and was invited to recreate the role of Marius for the 10th Anniversary Gala Concert of Les Miserables at the Royal Albert Hall. Michael released The Rose, a charity single raising money for ROC (Research into Ovarian Cancer), and as a founder member of the charity he continues to be involved with their work. Michael ended the year starring in Tony Palmer's film England, My England, a Channel 4 Films production in which he played Henry Purcell, and with a one hour Michael Ball Christmas Special for Carlton Televison with guest stars Dusty Springfield and Michael Bolton.

In 1996 ‘First Love’ entered the UK charts at No. 4, going gold soon after.  He returned to the stage in Steven Sondheim’s Passion at the Queen’s Theatre, London before recording his next album, ‘Michael Ball – The Musicals’ which was released in November to coincide with another sellout tour.  The year ended with Michael topping the bill at the Joy to the World Christmas Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, subsequently televised by the BBC.

Michael's video The Musicals and More (1997) entered the UK video charts at No. 1. It remained in the top 5 for over 9 weeks, and the top 20 for over a year. He launched the Wednesday Lottery Show on BBC1, and guest presented the National Lottery Live Show for the BBC during July. His performances included open air concerts at Bedford Park in North Devon, and top billing for Proms in the Park, a concert held in Hyde Park in front of 35,000 people for the Last Night of the Proms. He ended the year with a 5th national sell out tour named Nothing But The Best and appeared on the Royal Variety Performance on the occasion The Queen's Golden Wedding Anniversary.

In the early part of 1998, Michael performed and recorded three shows for the BBC at St David's Hall, Cardiff, with special guests Lesley Garrett, Ronan Keating and Martine McCutcheon. This was televised nationally during the summer in an hour long special entitled An Evening with Michael Ball. Due to Michael's huge contributionn to the success of Andrew Lloyd Webber's and Cameron Mackintosh's musicals, he was asked to appear at both of their 50th birthday celebrations.  He then performed at the Chelmsford Spectacular and the Liverpool Summer Pops and his seventh solo album, ‘The Movies’, sold 500,000 copies within six weeks of release earning Michael a platinum disc.

The following year Michael performed to 75,000 people at 25 concerts in the UK, Holland and further thousands at Castle Howard, Glamis Castle and Longleat House. In July, the Theatregoers Club of Great Britain voted Michael the Most Popular Musical Actor over the last 21 years. He also performed private shows for The Prince's Trust in the presence of the Prince of Wales at Highgrove and for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Night. To conclude the summer season, Michael performed four sell out shows in Ireland. Whilst putting the finishing touches to his Live at the Royal Albert Hall video and album, as well as a Christmas album, he was involved in the Rugby World Cup opening and closing ceremonies during October. The launch of the live video and CD saw the year end on a high. His video went in at No. 1, and has since gone platinum, with over 140,000 sales in the UK, while his album achieved gold status within three weeks of going on sale. Michael saw in the millennium with an outdoor concert in Kuala Lumpur.

In 2000 tickets for Michael’s 27 date tour sold out rapidly. The majority of the year was spent planning and developing his new album ‘This Time....It's Personal’, which was released in October. The album included covers of personal favourites and for the first time included material written by him.   While he was in the process of completing the album Michael flew to the US for a whistle stop promotional tour for his video ‘Live At The Albert Hall’ which became a huge hit Stateside and was shown in over 30 states.  The year ended with a one-off show to 300 people at the delightful Café de Paris in London; some of the songs Michael sang that evening were released alongside his album in October.  The year ended with Michael performing to 75,000 people on his 7th sell out UK tour, and a gold disc for his album This Time....It's Personal.

In 2001 Michael realised a long held ambition to appear in a one-off concert in Australia.  The Australians welcomed him with open arms, his album went gold and he promised to return for a full scale tour.   Back in the UK Michael returned to his roots when he was invited to appear at the Donmar Warehouse for two weeks as part of the Divas at the Donmar season. This thrilling challenge gave Michael the opportunity to explore areas of the musical stage in a new concept show that embraced many songs that Michael had not sung before. His album ‘Centre Stage’ was released during this time and went  gold within seven weeks. The year ended with a video release of his Donmar show titled Alone Together, along with a sold out UK tour in December.

2002 began with Michael hard at work in rehearsal for the exciting new production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium, which opened in April with Michael taking the lead role of Caractacus Potts.  After a hugely enjoyable 16 month run in ‘Chitty’, Michael recorded his new album, ‘A Love Story’, and subsequently undertook a major concert tour of the UK. The year finished with a Gala Christmas Concert at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

2004 was an incredibly busy year – the promised debut tour of Australia was highly successful and included sellout shows at Sydney Opera House. It was followed by Michael’s American solo concert debut in Salt Lake City, Utah.  In between he played opposite Petula Clark in BBC Radio 2’s live concert production of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and reprised his Alone Together show at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.  A double cd, ‘Love Changes Everything – The Essential Michael Ball’ went gold and his dvd/video, ‘Live In London’ followed soon after.  To round off a breathless year Michael performed twice for members of the royal family when he appeared in a special version of "Les Miserables" at Windsor Castle, and then at the opening celebrations of the new Wales Millennium Centre.

2005 was one of the most demanding and rewarding for the busiest man in theatre; he joined the cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Woman In White’ as the ‘revolting’ Count Fosco which he played with great relish and which garnered him a whatsonstage award. While he was working in the theatre in the evening, he was presenting ITV’s ‘This Morning’ during the day. He then hit the road for a hugely successful five week sellout tour of the UK, released his 250,000+ selling album, ‘Music’, and flew to New York where he made his highly anticipated debut with the New York City Opera at the Lincoln Center as Reginald Bunthorne in Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Patience’.  “The City Opera is fortunate in its two competing suitors; Michael Ball as Bunthorne and Kevin Burdette as Grosvenor.  Both sing beautifully, both are comic athletes and both are capable of evoking real people out of egregious exaggeration…” (New York Times, 12.9.05).  He then reprised the delicious role of the evil, plotting Count Fosco on Broadway in the New York production of ‘Woman In White’ in which he co-starred with Maria Friedman.  

2006 saw a raft of activity for this most dynamic of live performers; having been in the US for most of 2005, Michael decided to stay in the UK for a while…he sang the national anthem at May’s FA Cup Final at the Wales Millennium Stadium (“amazing having 72,000 people singing with you”) and completed the recording of his album, ‘One Voice’.  In July he performed with Elaine Paige in concert at the outdoor venue The Rec in Bath and went on an open air concert tour; in August he hosted a BBC Radio 2 Special, ‘Michael Ball Celebrates Anthony Newley’ at the Hackney Empire in London and performed at the Proms.

2007 opened with another successful BBC Radio 2 series, ‘Ball Over Broadway’ where Michael spends a week in New York seeing and reviewing as many shows as possible and interviewing directors, stars and producers for his long running, highly popular radio show.  Between March and April Michael performs in concert across the UK; he then starts rehearsals with the English National Opera with whom he will be performing the role of The Poet in a brand new production of Robert Wright and George Forrest’s ‘Kismet’ – first night is June 27th, last night July 14th.  This marks Michael’s debut with the ENO.  Michael’s next new cd is scheduled for an October release.

Ruthie Henshall

Olivier Award winner, Ruthie Henshall, has rarely been absent from the West End stage during the past fifteen years. She recently returned from Broadway to star as the lead in the new musical Peggy Sue Got Married. Ruthie released her new album ‘Pilgrim’ at the end of November 2001 before appearing in a series of musical theatre concerts in America.

Ruthie spent three years studying acting, dancing and singing at Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom from the age of 16 to 19. Whilst studying, Ruthie auditioned for her first role in a touring production of A Chorus Line and won the role of Maggie. Following this she promptly joined Cats at the New London Theatre, where she had the distinction of appearing in a variety of roles including Jemima, Demeter, Griddlebone and Grizabella.

At the age of 21 she was cast as Ellen in Miss Saigon at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Following this Ruthie created the role of Aphra in Children of Eden at the Prince Edward Theatre. From here Ruthie won a straight acting role and spent the following summer at the acclaimed Chichester Festival Theatre performing in Shakespeare, Moliere and the musical Valentine’s Day, based on Shaw’s ‘You Never Can Tell’. Following Chichester, Ruthie was chosen to play the tragic role of Fantine in Les Miserables at London’s Palace Theatre. She then went on to play Polly in the stunningly colourful production of Crazy for You in 1993 for which she was nominated for her first Olivier.

In 1994, Ruthie was nominated for the second Olivier and won the coveted award for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ for her portrayal of Amalia Balash in She Loves Me at the Savoy Theatre. As the Express claimed, “If rediscovering the joys of this show has been one of the delights of the summer, it is matched by Ruthie, its starry leading lady”.

Ruthie then spent 3 months in Canada recreating the role of Polly in Crazy For You, starring opposite Mickey Rooney. After a successful run Ruthie returned to England to star as Nancy in Sam Mendes’ exuberant revival of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!

After a further season in Chichester playing Polly in Divorce me Darling, Ruthie went on to star as Roxie Hart in the opening production of Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre. She was nominated for her third Olivier for her outstanding performance and won the ‘Theatre Goers Award for the Most Popular Musical Actress in The Last 21 Years’.

In 1998, Ruthie headed to America to establish a career on Broadway. After only three weeks she had impressed producers on Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and they offered her a leading role. From here Ruthie starred as Velma Kelly in the long running production of Chicago and later starred in Miss Saigon and Putting It Together.

After three successful years in America, Ruthie returned to the UK early in 2001 to make a welcomed return to the West End stage starring as Peggy Sue, in Peggy Sue Got Married at the Shaftesbury Theatre, gaining her a fourth Olivier nomination.

Ruthie is also a recording artist and is featured on a number of original cast recordings and in 1995 released her own personal collection ‘The Ruthie Henshall Album’. In the same year, Ruthie embarked on her own musical tour for two months starting at The Royal Festival Hall. Ruthie recorded her latest album ‘Pilgrim’ which was released at the end of November 2001.

In December 2001, Ruthie joined Michelle Gomez and Loretta ‘Hotlips’ Swit in The Vagina Monologues at the Arts Theatre for a six week run. Following this Ruthie made a return to America to appear in a series of free concerts to thank the American public for their help and support after the horrific events of 11th September, ‘New York Loves America – The Broadway Tour’.

Girls Aloud Shayne Ward Jamelia | Opera Gala | The Hills are Alive |Tân y Ddraig

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