Michael Ball opens new Suffolk academy

STAR of stage and screen Michael Ball has been left “overwhelmed” by the talent of Suffolk youngsters.

Kate McGrath

STAR of stage and screen Michael Ball has been left “overwhelmed” by the talent of Suffolk youngsters.

The singing heartthrob, who last night appeared at the Ipswich Regent, was in Kesgrave yesterday to officially open the Emma Dodd School of Performing Arts.

Michael is currently on a UK tour after taking a break from playing larger-than-life Edna Turnblad in the West End production of Hairspray.

To mark the occasion, talented pupils from the school - run by Suffolk-based stage star Emma Dodd - gave a short performance from their forthcoming production of Hairspray.

After the show, Michael said: “I didn't know what to expect today and I must say I have been bowled over by the talent in Suffolk.

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“It is a testament to the drive and determination of these children that they have reached such a standard in such little time. They were fantastic. I am overwhelmed.

“It is so nice to watch talented kids on the stage.”

Emma, 31, from Dryden Road, Ipswich, is currently in the Shaftesbury's Theatre production of Hairspray, but is due to finish later this month to concentrate on her own theatre school.

“It has been the biggest dream of mine for years and years to run my own theatre school and I can hardly believe it is coming true,” said Emma, who has also starred in the West End's Evita, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Starlight Express.

Donning a flat cap and a fashionable scarf, Michael officially opened the school by cutting a ribbon and unveiling a plaque in front of a packed audience at the Kesgrave Community Centre.

He added: “I must admit I don't know Suffolk that well but I have always played the Ipswich Regent and get a very warm reception.

“I haven't had much of a break between playing Edna in the West End and my tour, but to be honest that's the way I like it. I think I would have been miserable to leave Hairspray without anything else to do.”

For details of the Emma Dodd School of Performing Arts visit www.emmadodd.com.