BBC RADIO 2: THE MICHAEL BALL SHOW
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2023
As everyone knows, Michael Ball’s memoir DIFFERENT ASPECTS debuted this week, bringing with it many entertaining and revealing interviews with the author. Watching Michael during his discussion with Don Black last Sunday at Henley found me revisiting why I’ve become such a fan of this man. Of course I’m in awe of his talent, that goes without saying. But what has always struck me about Michael is his humanity – the essence of who he is, which was on full display at Henley. In a mere 60 minutes, Michael displayed so many facets. He’s a phenomenal storyteller, always hilarious, and he definitely proved it that night. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time! I greatly admired his candor about the theater in general and about the latest production of ASPECTS in particular. But what I found most fascinating was how he moved from emotion to emotion so easily and so genuinely, a sterling example of Michael just being himself. He was gregarious one moment, almost wrapping his arms around the audience, inviting them into his world. The next moment he was deeply moving, giving a rare peek into his private vault as he spoke of his Cathy and what she means to him, what they mean to each other. I found myself hanging on his every word, very much like I do every Sunday morning when he sits behind the microphone at BBC Radio 2 and chats with his friends.
“How are you, my lovelies? How are you this Sunday? Well (I hope). Let’s have 2 hours of leaving our troubles behind.” And he begins the show by playing Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration.” I literally felt my shoulders drop a few inches. Thank you, Michael. “It’s not my show. It’s OUR show,” he reminds us once again. “I don’t do it alone. Well, I could. But I don’t want to.”
The Family Album has some amusing lines. My favorite? Upon hearing that Stanley’s ideal situation in a home is having separate Tellys for everyone, Michael adds, “And a sink. Separate sinks.” We learn something new every week. Michael seemed to really enjoy this album, the history of Stanley & his wife Brenda and their 10 children. Their story is inspirational.
On the Ball. The first contestant is Geraldine, who used to have the job of switching on the autumn lights in Blackpool. Apparently Michael got to do it once. It sounds beautiful. During the question/answer period she keeps Michael in stitches with a few of her hilarious responses. Geraldine is playing against old friend Jean, who worked in transportation most of her life. Two VERY charming ladies today. The winner has to make the other a Greek dinner, and of course Michael lists all his favorite Greek dishes – and it sounded like he was drooling over them! Actually, it made me drool, too.
Eighteen-year-old Rosie and her mum Sonja are Michael’s first guests. They talk about the OKMT Music Club (funded by Children in Need) and the OK Music School which was an incredible help to Rosie with both her speaking problem and her performance anxiety. She was born with a rare kinetic disorder, something still unnamed. Rosie loves music, and it keeps her calm. The OK Music School has given her a new confidence and the ability to speak properly and to sing. This magnificent facility has helped so many children with disabilities over the years. Michael discusses music with Rosie, such a delight, and plays her favorite song, Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love.”
Michael opens the next segment by playing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” (One of my favorite songs!). Matt Doyle, Michael’s second guest, is a Broadway veteran and Tony Award winning actor. He is starring as Frank Sinatra in the world premiere of SINATRA, THE MUSICAL, currently running at the UK’s Birmingham Rep until October 28th. “I wasn’t singing along, You were!” Michael shouts with joy to Matt, followed by laughter from both men. Matt says the musical focuses on the early stage of Sinatra’s life, up to when he won the Oscar for “From Here to Eternity.” It highlights how Sinatra fell from success in every way after initial stardom and climbed back up to the top. Matt Doyle gives such description to the entire experience of this musical, making me wish I could see it. Michael, with an apology, asks Matt to sing a cappella “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and he sings it beautifully at this early hour on a Sunday morning. Finally, we learn that the show will likely hit the West End soon, followed by Broadway. FANTASTIC! The segment wraps with Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me.” Magnificent interview, as always. The 2 men have so much fun together, their whole discussion framed with laughter.
Michael’s final guest is fifteen-year-old Leo and his mum Sharlene. Winchester Goalball Club for the visually impaired, started by 2 Paralympians, is the highlight of this segment. Leo was born with no pigment in his skin, hair and eyes. Goalball is a special ballgame designed specifically for the blind, and it’s quite daring and tricky. Leo has blossomed here, making great friends, and his dream is to be in the Paralympics. This is SUCH an uplifting interview! Leo closes with telling Michael that his Nanny P is Michael’s biggest fan, which completely enchants our host. The segment closes with the perfect song. “Lean on Me.” Great choice, Michael!
In their final segment together, Orna and Michael talk about the inspiration of these kids who are helped by Children in Need. As for the traffic snares, it’s a tangle out there, but both Michael and Orna agree the abundance of today’s sunshine makes up for it. Michael even comes up with a new jingle because of the traffic: “If you’re stuck in a queue, try Radio 2!”
Once again, Michael’s show zipped by, but every moment was a gem. At Henley, Don Black brought up Michael’s extraordinary success as a host on BBC Radio 2. With a sheepish grin, Michael admitted he loved doing the radio show. When asked what made a radio host successful, Michael responded, “The radio is the most intimate forum out there. So you have to just be yourself.” And that’s exactly what Michael Ball does, week after week. He shows up at the studio in his ‘comfies’ and a head full of runaway curls, bringing with him whatever mood he’s in. And he shares that mood with his audience. If his stubborn tomatoes or struggling Brussel sprouts are on his mind, that’s what he talks about. If he’s grumpy about the weather or the snarled traffic, he lets everyone know. If he had a wild Saturday night out, he tells his listeners about it, and on occasion even admits he’s suffering the morning-after effects. This abject honestly is a rare quality in a business where every celebrity word spoken and every move made is analyzed and too often criticized. Michael Ball doesn’t care. He is who he is, and he isn’t afraid to show it. “You do hit a point where you start caring less about what others think. That’s one of the gifts of age,” he recently told Irelandlive. Whether it’s age or not, I find it both refreshing and admirable.
Why am I such a fan of Michael Ball? It’s impossible to single out one ‘aspect’ of him over the other. There is no other celebrity quite like Michael, not in the UK and certainly not in the US. Actor. Singer. Author. Radio host. Presenter. And above all, a good guy. Yep. That’s it. That’s the main reason. I worked in the theater for decades, and there’s one thing about Michael that is 100% irrefutable: Michael Ball is one of the good guys in a business that doesn’t breed men like him. He’s stayed above the fray all these years. Bravo, Michael.
*CopyrightDeborahFezelle2023* This material is the exclusive property of Deborah Fezelle, Michael Ball & the MBFC.