On Friday, January 27, he'll show off his singing skills at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington, Long Island, and on Sunday, January 29, he'll appear at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York City. TheaterMania recently spoke to Ballas about his multifaceted career, being a Miss America judge, the roles he'd like to play on Broadway, and his dream partners on Dancing With the Stars.
THEATERMANIA: Is singing something new for you?
MARK BALLAS: No. I think what people don't know about me is that I studied at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London for most of my life, through university, where I was a theater and a music major. I learned the guitar when I was nine, and started really playing music when I was 12.
TM: So tell me about your work as a singer-songwriter.
MB: I've done two independent albums in the adult-contemporary mode, all of which include songs I've written and played guitar for, and I'm working on a new recording that is a bit more mainstream. I want it to be a lot more fun, so when I perform I can be an all-around entertainer on stage. I want to be able to sing, play the guitar, and dance in the same show.
TM: What will these upcoming club dates be like?
MB: It's just acoustic with percussion and guitar. It's mostly my original songs, but there is one section of covers, which starts with "Sexual Healing" and goes into "Waiting for the World to Change," "Rude Boy," and "Ain't No Sunshine." I performed it in front about 8,000 people at one of the talent competitions at the Miss America pageant earlier this month, where I was a judge, and I got a standing ovation. I think people weren't expecting it.
TM: What inspires you as a songwriter?
MB: My songs have a range of topics, from relationships to meeting someone at a club to a song about my uncle passing away from suicide or fighting depression. The important thing is that I want to write about things all of us go through; I like to write in a non-selfish way about my experiences.
TM: So when did the dancing start?
MB: I did ballroom dancing outside of school, as a hobby, and eventually I got good at it and started doing competitions. Then, out of the blue, Dancing With the Stars called me to be on the show, and I had to really think about it. I'd never been to Los Angeles. So I went to L.A. with one suitcase and my guitar case, and everything has evolved from there.
TM: Going back to Miss America, did you vote for the winner, Laura Kaeppeler?
MB: She was in my top three. I loved her and it felt right when she was named the winner. She's beautiful and talented and smart; her interview was really good. It was an honor to be asked to be a judge -- it wasn't something I'd ever thought about -- and it was really interesting to see what goes into choosing the correct person to be Miss America.
TM: Do you ever want to come back to musical theater?
MB: I want 100 percent to go back to the stage, whether it's Broadway or the West End. Theater incorporates everything that I know how to do. One of the things I am trying to do all the time is educate people that it's good to be good at more than just one thing.
TM: Do you have some theater roles on your wish list?
MB: I would love to do Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar; I know that part inside and out. I would also love to play Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys or Fiyero in Wicked. I have my eyes on those roles. And my favorite show in college was Les Miserables. We used to go see it in London all the time, so if they bring that back, I'm ready.
TM: Are you coming back for the next season of Dancing With the Stars?
MB: None of us have heard yet -- only the producers know for sure. They really don't tell us until the last minute. But I would assume so.
TM: Who would you most like your next celebrity partner to be?
MB: I would love to have Jennifer Aniston as my partner! I think Ellen DeGeneres would be awesome. And Britney Spears would be good if she's ever up for it. But I'm down for anything or anyone. The best part of the show is that I love to meet new people and teach them how to dance.