Michael Ball (pictured) will inject a bit of the West End and Broadway into one of the key events in the UK’s annual classical music calendar. As part of this year’s BBC Proms, Ball will perform a full-length concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 27 August 2007.

The announcement has provoked accusations of “dumbing down”, but Proms controller Nicholas Kenyon, who leaves later this year after 12 years in the job, defended his decision, saying that organisers must respond to audience demand by broadening the event’s appeal. Of Ball, Kenyon said: “He deserves a place at the Proms just as much as performers in the great classical tradition…. Our job is to cover the whole waterfront. I think he is one of the great, intelligent singing artists alive today."

Details of what Ball will include in his concert have not yet been confirmed, but songs from various Andrew Lloyd Webber and other musicals are expected to feature heavily. Though the Proms has never before included an entire evening of show tunes, it has made other departures from the classical repertoire in the past, including evenings of Brazilian and Cuban music.

Ball made his West End debut in 1985, originating the role of Marius in Les Miserables. He went on to star in Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, Passion and Aspects of Love. It was the last that had perhaps the most dramatic impact on his career, transferring to Broadway and also producing the #1 hit song "Love Changes Everything", which has become one of Ball's signature tunes on his ongoing concert tours.

Ball’s most recent West End roles have been Caractacus Potts in the stage premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Count Fosco in The Woman in White, for which he won Whatsonstage.com’s Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Takeover in a Role. He reprised his performance in the Broadway premiere of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Ahead of his Proms appearance at the Royal Albert Hall, Ball will make his English National Opera debut, starring in a revival of Robert Wright and George Forrest 1953 Broadway musical Kismet (See News, 2 Aug 2006), which will have a consecutive run of performances at the London Coliseum from 27 June to 14 July 2006 (previews from 25 June).

This year’s BBC Proms runs from 13 July to 8 September 2007, spanning eight centuries of music in 90 concerts. The season opens with Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”. Asked yesterday whether he regarded Andrew Lloyd Webber as an equal to Beethoven, Nicholas Kenyon replied: “Yes, at his best.”

- by Terri Paddock