BBC RADIO 2: THE MICHAEL BALL SHOW
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2023
Well, it’s been quite a year for Michael Ball. A successful year. A brave year. Michael has never shied away from new challenges, but in 2023 he outdid himself. Thirty-four years after starring in ASPECTS OF LOVE in both the West End and on Broadway, Michael returned to the show that made him a household name, and this time in the role of George. This was his baby, his idea, and he made it come to life. Again, brave. While the show didn’t have the happy ending everyone hoped for, it brought personal acclaim for both Michael and his stellar cast. Then, after being urged by his fans for decades to pen an autobiography, Michael came through for them in 2023 with DIFFERENT ASPECTS, a stunning and revealing memoir. With both productions of ASPECTS acting as bookends in the manuscript, Michael took us backstage, both at the theater and in his personal life. It was brave of Michael to write a memoir, never an easy thing, and open himself up to a world of strangers, revealing parts of his life I’m sure he’d rather keep private. And then there’s the radio show. Every Sunday morning, Michael gets in front of a microphone at BBC Radio 2 and shows us who he is. The walls of celebrity come down, and a regular guy named Michael Ball chats with us for 2 hours …
“Oh, my lovelies, how are you? It’s the final Michael Ball on Sunday for 2023. But we’re not going to stop, are we?” And he plays – so appropriately – ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.’ Tomorrow is 2024, and I’ll bet Michael has a few surprises up his sleeve for us in the new year. Time will tell. “Did you have a lovely Christmas? Did you eat too much? Are you wearing an elasticized waist? I am.”
Michael begins the highlights of his favorite moments of the past year on the radio with “The Mystery of the Boiled Sweet.” You remember this, right? When Michael found a “sweet” stuck on the radio console, and he was determined to track down the traitor. Which he does, by calling the other DJs one-by-one! Michael lets the whole section of the original broadcast run, and it’s just as funny as when it first aired. This incident not only took over the airwaves, it also went viral on X (Twitter) and Instagram! Ah, Michael, you know how to make your listeners laugh! Or should I address you as Sherlock Holmes?
On the Ball Grand Finale. Michael does a fabulous build-up for this face-off, oh SO dramatic! First contestant is Jess, who scored 26 points last March and has been waiting on tenterhooks ever since to see if she’d be in the finale. Well, she made it to the finale, and she did well. The second contestant is Alex, who played the week following Jess last March. Their conversation is delightful and full of laughter as Alex describes how he gained from the forfeit since last March (He was taken to a restaurant where you eat in the dark – Michael’s comments about this are of course hilarious!). Now, I have to tell you who won, because they have to go up against the all-time champion, Nic. Congratulations, Alex (by a single point!).
Orna. Aw, they’re not together today, but it doesn’t seem to matter a bit. Giggles abound. Michael says he fed himself well over the last week. “If it was there, I ate it.” And he mentions that elasticized waist again. Orna spent the holiday catching up on telly, and Michael has plenty to say about what she was watching. Our resident TV critic, what would we do without him? After her return, he thanks her for being such a huge part of his show. So lovely, Michael.
Michael’s second highlight from the year: the 2 Mr. P’s who have a popular podcast. These are the 2 schoolteachers who had Michael in stitches about the funny things kids blurt out. I laughed out loud all over again!
A 3rd highlight is Nic Matchett, the overall champion of On the Ball, talking to Michael about her husband proposing to her – which leads to a FIT OF GIGGLES from everyone , especially Michael – you have to hear this for yourself! Michael’s last question to her is, “Is he there now playing with you?” Which sets them off again. Infectious laughter. There is nothing better than infectious laughter. What a perfect way to start our New Year’s Eve!
The next highlight was when Michael had Cliff Richard on in November. Michael commiserates with Cliff about their both coming in 2nd on the charts to Jason Donovan. Michael then surprised Cliff by getting Jason on the air, and the conversation between the 3 of them was fantastic, which Michael replays.
Another highlight for Michael was the Radio 2 Live in the Park, a few days of great fun and broadcasts on location.
Ultimate Champion On the Ball. Now it’s time for Alex Cooper to face off with 6-time champion Nic Matchett. Again, Michael builds up the finale beautifully. Alex is nervous but says he’s calmed down finally. His segment is very funny, but I won’t give away how he does. On comes Nic, who catches Michael up on what she’s been doing, including the loss of Rufus, her black lab, who Michael knew. Nic now has a rescued brown lab named Ralph. As Michael says, you can never replace the baby you lost, but it’s wonderful that she’s given another dog a home. Now for the questions – and immediately there’s one that literally dissolves Michael into unintelligible giggles – and it goes on for quite a while!! Epic radio. EPIC! The rest of the segment follows in the same fashion. Giggles and giggles and giggles. Michael’s laughter is out of control – off the charts! It is by far one of the best On the Balls EVER! And I WILL NOT give away the winner. You have to hear this entire segment for yourself. The segment closes with Michael playing “We are the Champions, my Friends.” Fabulous!
Michael’s final highlight is, of course, his interview with the legendary Barbra Streisand. Without a doubt, it was an iconic moment for both Michael and for us. Thankfully, he replays a large segment of their chat. And then he plays Streisand singing “Evergreen.” Ah. Be still my heart.
As Michael proved with today’s highlights, it was indeed a wondrous year. Michael, you and your team should feel very proud – and your ratings speak for themselves.
Since it’s the end of the year, it seems appropriate to thank a few people for a spectacular 2023. Where would any of us be without Gill Oakley & Maureen Wilkinson-Rouse? They’ve run a highly successful fan club for Michael Ball for decades, a club that numbers in the thousands, not an easy job. They keep us up to date with timely emails, host contests and giveaways, keep the fakes and frauds out, help Michael with his charities and monitor a forum that I’m sure often feels like herding cats. And they do it all with a kind word and a generosity of spirit. There’s also James Gaden, who is responsible for On the Ball magazine, a monumental task. This is not his sole job, just the largest, as he also summarizes all of Michael’s recordings on the website, an immensely useful guide for fans, both old and new. And one more thing: when James speaks up on the forum, you can count on his voice as informed opinion or fact.
There’s one special lady I feel has to be acknowledged. Amy Wadge, one of Michael’s “best mates.” She wrote a song specifically for Michael this year that will undoubtedly become a signature for him: “On with the Show.” Other people may sing it, but no one will give it more heart or depth of meaning than Michael Ball. It’s impossible to encapsulate how an actor feels when a show is about to close – especially if it’s unexpected. Amy Wadge not only accomplished the impossible, she also showcased why an actor chooses the crazy life of the theatre, what it means to go out on that stage night after night in front of a houseful of strangers, leaving yourself behind and becoming someone else, wearing your heart on your sleeve. Anyone who gets to see both Michael & Amy on the upcoming tour is in for the experience of a lifetime.
And then there’s the reason we’re gathered today: the radio show. I’ll begin with the guests, drawn from all walks of life, sparking our curiosity about subjects we might not think about otherwise. And the magnificent interviews with so many children, Michael speaking their language, drawing them out, freeing them to say whatever they’re thinking, often with hilarious results. And the celebrity interviews, the chats with actors, singers, dancers, authors and presenters, allowing us to listen in on what seems like a private conversation between two artists. This is where Michael really excels, when he connects with a fellow celebrity, when their fame disappears and their mutual experience takes over. Everyone loves a peek behind the scenes, and Michael never lets us down.
No, it’s not ‘The Ste Softley Show’ (oh how hilarious that was!), but without Ste as producer, this would be a vastly different show. Ste’s great insight into what works and what doesn’t, his continuous choice of the perfect music and his quick finger on the camera to give us an inside peek into the goings-on during the broadcast has added up to a year we will remember fondly. Michael and Ste’s longtime collaboration makes The Michael Ball Show one of the best productions on the airwaves. And let’s not forget Orna Merchant. She’s far more than a ‘Traffic Girl.’ She’s Michael’s sidekick, enabling him to giggle and laugh at himself. When these 2 are wound up, it’s great radio! Orna also has the innate ability to get Michael to reveal something about himself each week, something he might not otherwise bring up. Finally, there’s Michael himself. He’s at home on the radio, literally and figuratively. It’s obvious he loves the medium, the medium loves him, and he gets great joy out of doing his show each Sunday. He instinctively knows what his listeners want, and he gives it to them, week after week. Thank you, Michael, for bringing exactly who you are to us, the listeners, in the past year.
Happy New Year Gill, Maureen, James, Amy, Ste, Orna & especially Michael. On this New Year’s Eve, let’s celebrate the fact that we’re all here together to welcome the dawning of 2024. I’m sure we’re in for one wild ride with Michael at the helm. As Michael sang so beautifully and so emotionally at the Fane event: “On With the Show.”
*CopyrightDeborahFezelle2023* This material is the exclusive property of Deborah Fezelle, Michael Ball & the MBFC.
All photos used with permission by owners. Do not copy or share photos without permission. Michael with Gill & Maureen. Michael with James. Michael & Ste. Orna. Michael, Orna & Ste. And of course, the one and only Michael Ball.
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