BBC RADIO 2: THE MICHAEL BALL SHOW
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2023
“I am the greatest, greatest star!” Fanny Brice, FUNNY GIRL
“With one look I can play any part.” Norma, SUNSET BOULEVARD
How do you write an intro for a mega-star like Barbra Streisand? But then, Michael Ball is also a mega-star. And Nicole Scherzinger, Michael’s other guest today, has been making a name for herself for decades. The above lyrics exemplify both of today’s guests with a little of Michael Ball’s history tossed into the mix. All three have worked hard to get where they are today. Streisand was considered a vagabond when she started out, haunting every NYC audition, hoping for a role. Her first break came on Broadway with I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE, followed by her breakout role as Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL. By the same token, people think Michael Ball has led a blessed life, getting everything he wanted. Not true. Like Streisand, Michael shaped his early career as a concert artist and with hit recordings interspersed with shows in the West End or Broadway. But there was one role in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Michael coveted that eluded him for many years. Today he will interview the star of that musical which is again on the stage in London. We’ll get to all this later. First …
“Hello, my lovelies.” And that dulcet voice hits the airwaves. “Yeah, it’s me. Thanks for being with me for the next 2 hours on Superstar Sunday.” Michael opens the show with “All I Want for Christmas is You,” definitely getting us in the mood. “Christmas is coming,” he says with childlike wonder. “And all I want for Christmas is you for the next 2 hours.” Michael’s excitement is over the top this morning. He’s tripping all over his words! So charming.
On the Ball. The first contestant is Kate. They commiserate about the cold. Michael is excited about her wedding, which will be wall-to-wall musicals. Even the tables are named after musicals! The music is musicals, and the entertainment is, too. And Michael gives her even more suggestions. It all sounds like so much fun! Today Michael goes off on how anyone couldn’t love the Harry Potter movies when he learns that Andy, Kate’s fiancé, has to watch them all if he loses. There are a ton of Michael’s giggles throughout. He is SO happy today! Next up is Andy and the threat of the dreaded Harry Potter movies. Andy is actually quite funny about his dislike of these movies, which stymies Michael. If Kate loses this contest Andy gets a “Yes, Andy,” day. Kate has to do everything he wants. I won’t reveal the outcome of this contest. You have to hear it for yourself. I really loved these 2, and Michael was great with them.
Orna isn’t in the studio today, which is always a shame. Michael’s in the new studio (or is it an interim studio? Very confusing), which was freezing when he came in. I’m with you, Michael. I hate being cold! Michael’s advice: “Just stay in. Snuggle up.” AND “Dr. Who” comes up again. I’m shaking my head here. Michael is relentless about this show!
And then we hear Michael say, “I’m going to check the Radio Times to see if I’m listening to the Ste Softley show!” Oops. He forgot to turn the mike off. Michael is all over the place today! And it’s absolutely HILARIOUS!!
Nicole Scherzinger is an American singer, actress and dancer, well known for her stint as the lead singer with the Pussycat Dolls. After studying musical theater, she embarked on a wide-ranging career, performing in rock bands, on TV (winning Dancing with the Stars in 2010) and on stage in a variety of musicals. She’s been nominated for a Grammy and an Olivier. Now she’s starring as Norma Desmond in the West End revival of SUNSET BOULEVARD, a new interpretation of the musical. Michael saw the show on Wednesday, and he raves about it. Nicole says she’s exhausted, but she’s never felt so fulfilled. She’s living her dream. Michael compliments the sound in the theater, and Nicole’s amazing voice, able to go from a whisper to a belt in a split second. Sounds like Michael’s voice, doesn’t it? She talks about where she’s at right now, her physical fitness, her voice, her spirit. There’s talk of this going to Broadway, and Michael hopes it does. It’s the role of a lifetime, Michael tells her, and her performance is stunning. He closes the segment with Streisand singing “With One Look” from SUNSET. It’s the perfect segue between Michael’s 2 extraordinary guests today.
And on comes Streisand, who needs no introduction. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know who Barbra Streisand is? Fasten your seatbelts, here we go … Michael’s introduction is stunning, listing her accomplishments, her awards, her albums … And he admits, he’s been a fan of hers for decades. He opens the segment by playing her singing “I Am a Woman in Love.” Oh, that voice! I grew up listening to her, memorizing her albums. Like Michael, I’m a lifelong fan. “I’ve wanted to say this all my life,” he says. “Hello, Barbra Streisand.” She starts by complimenting him for pronouncing her name correctly (there’s an ‘s’ in sand, not a ‘z’). Michael read her 1000 page autobiography in 2 days while sick in bed with a cold, which impresses her. He compliments her honesty in her book, and she admits it’s easier to write than to “say.” That much of what she reveals in her autobiography is just too personal to actually voice. Her book talks about never knowing her father and the strange relationship she had with her mother. This conversation between the 2 of them is so riveting, Barbra incredibly open about many aspects of her life. Michael says he was actually there at Wembley, when Streisand conquered her stage fright after 27 years, when she sang SUNSET’s “As if I Never Said Goodbye.” Wow. That must have been something. She talks about how the public/media are too quick to accept the negative about her instead of the positive. And she talks about her son, whom she loves to the moon and back. It’s a magnificent interview, by far one of Michael’s best. I adored every single moment of it. Bravo, Michael for asking all the right questions. Bravo, Barbra for being yourself throughout this lovely chat. Bravo to the 2 of them for providing a peek behind the superstar Barbra Streisand, letting us see a bit of who she really is. Michael closes this segment with Barbra singing “Evergreen.” Of course it brought tears to my eyes. He wraps it all up with, “I can’t believe I just talked with Barbra Streisand. I LOVE MY JOB!” I will forever love the little boy in Michael Ball. That’s who he was today, so excited about interviewing his idol. So lovely and genuine to witness.
As Michael Ball’s career progressed, yes, he was usually able to snag the roles he wanted. But there were times when he had to go after a job or occasionally watch a role slip away. With HAIRSPRAY, no one in the West End could picture Michael as Edna Turnblad. They just couldn’t see it. Michael wanted the part so badly he auditioned for it, something he hadn’t done in years. And he proved to the entire theatrical world that no one but Michael Ball could play Edna by winning his first Olivier in the role. As for roles that eluded him, Michael was cast as Joe Gillis in the first experimental production of SUNSET BOULEVARD at Lloyd Webber’s Sydmonton Festival. When a revised script was produced in the West End, the role of Joe, surprisingly, went to someone else. But fate interceded years later, and Michael played Joe Gillis opposite Petula Clark’s Norma Desmond at the Cork Opera House in Ireland, later broadcast on the BBC Radio 2. I’ve listened to that recording (complete with dialogue and songs), and Michael was magnificent as Joe. His performance revealed a perfect American accent, the trained actor that we’ve come to know so well, and songs full of emotion, angst, bitterness and heartbreak. I saw SUNSET BOULEVARD on Broadway, and the actor who portrayed Joe was the weak link in the production, IMO. I love this musical and have fiercely believed no one would be a better Joe Gillis than Michael Ball. He proved me right.
Well, another radio show goes into the history books. Yes, today was all about Barbra Streisand. But for me, Sundays are always about Michael and his gift for the radio. Still, Michael Ball, Barbra Streisand & Nicole Scherzinger. It doesn’t get any better than this!
*CopyrightDeborahFezelle2023* This material is the exclusive property of Deborah Fezelle, Michael Ball & the MBFC.