BBC RADIO 2: THE MICHAEL BALL SHOW
SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2023
“What does annoy me is when critics use me to ridicule my audience. All the stuff about ‘Tesco housewives’ and ‘the blue-rinse brigade.’” From his earliest days as a fresh face in the West End, Michael Ball has recognized how lucky he is to have such devoted fans. And early on he wisely teamed up with 2 young women, Maureen Wilkinson-Rouse and Gill Oakley. The 3 of them formed The Michael Ball Fan Club, a group that is still going strong decades later. Because of Michael, Maureen & Gill, lifelong friendships have formed and charities have been generously funded. Because of the fans, Michael’s events are a sell-out and his music has gone international.
How much does Michael adore his fans? His BBC RADIO 2 show provides a telling answer. Most shows on the airwaves are about playing music interspersed with an occasional interview. Michael, on the other hand, pulls his fans into the program each week with his On The Ball, The Family Album & Sunday Boasts. He sees his 2 hours on the air more as a chat with friends rather than a star vehicle for himself.
“Hello, my lovelies. It’s me, for the next couple hours. Don’t go anywhere. We’re going to get the party started!” And he opens with the rollicking eye-opener “She Bangs” by the always exciting Ricky Martin. “That’s the way you open a show!” Michael declares afterwards. It certainly woke ME up!Then he plays the “greatest theme of all time,” the theme of the day, “The Avengers.” Michael has already kicked into high gear. “Oh, I love the Avengers!” I can always discern Michael’s mood by his choice of music. Today it’s got a heart-thumping beat and is about as “up” as you can get. Exactly what’s needed on this Sunday morning. Fasten your seatbelts. This is definitely going to be a high-voltage show! And as if to prove my point, following his playing a Spice Girls hit, he admits, “Oh, I’m having a good dance.” Yep. Michael’s in a GREAT mood!
On the Ball. First contestant is Kaitlin. When she asks how he is, his response is “Bit damp.” Which hangs in the air for a few beats until she realizes what he said, and then they have a good laugh. Kaitlin is a filmmaker so they have an interesting chat about that. They part ways, however, on “Game of Thrones.” Michael is adamant about his likes and dislikes and isn’t afraid to tell the world. Their banter is hilarious with lots of laughs. Kaitlin’s mom Lee is the next contestant, who says she has a cold. Michael responds by saying she sounds sexy. What a charmer! Actually, Lee’s voice IS lovely to listen to. Michael blatantly admits he’s rooting for Lee to win because he wants Kaitlin to have to watch “Game of Thrones” as her forfeit. He’s like a dog with a bone about “Game of Thrones.” Or a petulant child. Yes, that’s it! And like a petulant child, he doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t love what he loves. Once again, as if to prove my point, he imitates his mum reacting to a wee Michael behaving badly: “I will always love you, Michael, but at this moment I don’t like you very much.” This is such a delightful On the Ball.
Orna. Michael’s sad because she’s not in the studio. He gets Orna to admit she was once a long-jumper until she grew and became “vertically challenged.” Oh, Orna, you do make me laugh. When she returns, Michael teases her about singing along with “We Are Family” off-mike. And he threatens to start recording her, which sets them both off on a fit of giggles.
Michael’s first guest is Sam Palladio, actor, singer, songwriter, and well-known for his role as Gunnar in the series NASHVILLE. He’s currently starring in the West End production of OKLAHOMA as Curly. A product of drama school like Michael, Sam talks about his careers in both music and acting. This production of OKLAHOMA is completely different from the original, updated and haunting, brought into today’s world, yet adhering to the original script. Michael reminds his audience that at the time their shows debuted, Rodgers & Hammerstein were on the cutting edge of the times. Sam is thrilled that he gets to play guitar during the show. And he talks about living in Nashville, which he loves. The 2 men have so much in common, as Sam admits he prefers to be seen as just a regular guy. Sound familiar? Their 2 worlds of acting and music also connect these artists. This is a fabulous conversation between 2 men who speak the same language. Another peek behind the curtain of Michael’s domain.
Michael’s next guest is Levi Roots, the creator of Reggae Reggae (so good he had to name it twice), a Jamaican jerk BBQ Sauce. Sixteen years later, it’s become a British supermarket staple, amassing Keith Graham (his real name) a £30million fortune. Laughing, Levi comes dressed beautifully, determined to look better than Michael, who responds, “That isn’t hard. I literally roll out of bed and go to the studio.” A man of a million talents, Levi has written a new musical which will open in Scotland. It’s title? SOUND CLASH – DEATH IN THE ARENA. He’s taken ROMEO AND JULIET and brought it into today’s world. Michael observes that Levi has surrounded himself with all the right people, which hopefully means it will be a hit. Michael loves Levi’s sauce Reggae Reggae, a staple in his pantry. And a movie about Levi Roots’ amazing rise from humble roots to millionaire is being made. He hopes it will inspire others to believe anything is possible. What an extraordinary man!
In the final moments, Michael pays tribute to the great Tony Bennett, who appeared on his TV show back in the day. Michael reminisces that Tony sang “Happy Birthday” to him. And then he plays Tony singing “Stranger in Paradise,” so beautiful, before closing the show and thanking his devoted fans for listening this morning.
Michael’s ardent fans are legendary. When he’s teased about it in interviews, with a blush and a giggle he tells the world he’s fortunate to have them. If it weren’t for Michael’s fans, he wouldn’t have been cast in ENGLAND, MY ENGLAND, a film that he says jump-started his acting career. Tony Palmer, director of the movie, explains how he found his star for the film in an interview with The Gramophone Newsletter in 2020: “Albert Finney? A bit old. Richard Burton? Dead. David Bowie? Not musical enough. And then one night I was driving past the Royal Albert Hall and hordes of screaming kids and their mums were coming out of a concert by someone called Michael Ball. ‘Who?’ said the money men. ‘But he’s a pop star.’ Two nights later I met Michael at the bar of the Hilton after another sell-out at the Albert Hall, and I just kept talking until he said yes. As it turned out it was one of the happiest of all my professional collaborations. He was – and is – a joy to work with.” So as you can see, fans CAN make a difference.
Are there rude fans? Of course there are, as we saw this week at the stage door. Most people who behave in this fashion are just looking for autographs to sell, as James Gaden (another indispensable member of Michael’s team) wisely pointed out, and Michael knows this. Still, it’s difficult for him to say no. Most actors rest between shows, especially if they’re not feeling well, but Michael hates to disappoint his fans. Being kind is his motto, and it’s ingrained in him, a rare quality for an actor.
“Remember, it’s not MY show. It’s OUR show,” Michael reminds his friends in the opening of his radio broadcast each week. These are not empty words. Michael Ball lives by them.
*CopyrightDeborahFezelle2023* This material is the exclusive property of Deborah Fezelle, Michael Ball & the MBFC.