Michael Ball's London
You'd expect the doyen of musical theatre to enjoy the West End and dining at The Ivy. But the Hairspray star is also a comic book geek who loves James Bond and hates the National Theatre. Here, he reveals the best and worst of London life...
Your favourite neighbourhood?
"I live in Barnes. It's a time-warp. You go over Hammersmith Bridge and suddenly there you are, stopping for the ducks and geese that walk across the road. But on a good day I can be into the theatre in 20 minutes."
Your favourite building?
"There are so many and I love the history that goes with them. I'm going for the Palladium - it's one of those buildings like the Albert Hall. Everyone's played there and you can smell the history, literally."
Most hated building?
"The National Theatre! You look at that thing and you think, there was the opportunity to create something world class. It's hideous."
Albert Bridge lit up at night
Best view in London?
"Probably from one of the bridges - Albert Bridge, say, at dusk when it's all lit up."
Favourite open space?
"Richmond Park. I walk my dogs, marvel at the deer and love the views from there."
Most interesting shop?
"I love shopping - for toot and gadgets, mostly. I think the new Westfield centre is fantastic and I like a shop in Richmond called They Walk Among Us, where they sell comics. I love graphic novels, love all that."
Favourite pub, bar or restaurant?
"It sounds naff to say it but I really love The Ivy. I've been going there for over 20 years and they really do know how to cater."
Party pal Sir Cameron Mackintosh
Most memorable night out?
"There've been hundreds and hundreds, but the best was doing a show for Cameron Mackintosh at the Lyceum, a one-off for charity. Afterwards he took us all out to dinner at Joe Allen's and Julie Andrews was there, Hugh Jackman was there, loads of people.
"Then we all piled back to Cameron's offices in Bedford Square, played the piano and trashed the place till about 6 o'clock in the morning!"
How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
"I would mooch and hang out, do Richmond Park, go for a nice dinner or go up West. I try to make time for stuff like that, particularly as my day off at the moment is a Monday and everything's open and not too crowded."
Where would you take a visitor to London?
"I'd take them all round the West End, starting from Trafalgar Square. You know the best thing to do? It's to take young kids to see a fantastic musical."
The worst journey you've had to make in London?
"What's happening with the roads here, eh? I bet everyone comes on here and says the same thing. But the other day, Saturday morning, it took me three hours to get from home to the stage door. They had to hold the curtain in the end.
"I thought Boris was going to press a button and have the traffic, have all that sorted out."
Your personal London landmark?
"I love Hammersmith Bridge. It's great going from the north London side to the lovely, leafy beauty of the south London bank, where all is right and The Archers are still playing on the wireless."
007 is a favourite fictional character
Your favourite fictional Londoner?
"It's got to be James Bond. He's a Londoner, right? You've got to be to burst out of the side of the MI5 building. I love it in the movies when London is referenced - it looks so good and so glamorous."
Favourite London film, book or documentary?
"Mary Poppins. I love it. I remember my first trip to London when I was small, we went to St Paul's and it still makes me cry to think about it. Beautiful music and those scenes on London's rooftops... it's tremendous."
Which time period in London, past or future, would you like to go to?
"I'm going back to the Victorian era, to Jack the Ripper, the mist and the fog. I think it's a fascinating era and I'd like to be able to see bits of London that I can still recognise, like the West End for instance."
Michael Ball is appearing in Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London until 25 July 2009. His new album, Past and Present - the Very Best Of... is out now.
last updated: 17/03/2009 at 18:38
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