BBC RADIO 2: THE MICHAEL BALL SHOW
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2023
The longevity of a celebrity’s career is always a challenge. Many who achieve stardom in their youth disappear when age creeps in. Or they get swallowed up in their success and burn themselves out. Or they overindulge in drugs or booze and lose everything they had going for them. Being a young idol with thousands of screaming women worshipping you is heady. So is snagging every male lead in every musical. But what happens when time passes? The smart ones adapt or reinvent themselves. The name of the game is being in demand. Making yourself irreplaceable. That’s what Michael Ball did. On the stage. On the concert circuit. And on the radio …
“Hello, my lovelies. We’ve had an extra hour in bed. I have a cold, but I’m here. Let’s go dancing in the moonlight.” – And Michael opens his show with that song. “I’m not going to be dancing in the moonlight, not with this cold,” he moans afterwards. Men always turn into little boys when they’re not feeling well. Michael, as always, wants the audience to tell him what makes them smile, adding, “I need a smile today.” Sorry, but I find this particular little boy adorable. Cold remedies, anyone?
Michael’s boasts and Family Album highlight his cold. That lovely voice is an octave lower, adding a sultry quality to its richness. I’m sorry he’s sick, but I could listen to that voice all day! Enjoy, everyone.
On the Ball. And of course the first thing out of Michael’s mouth is he’s heavy with cold but being a brave soldier. Okay. I’ll say it. Poor baby. I DO feel for him. The first contestant is Jake, who didn’t like musicals until he was a teenager because his parents inundated him with them. LES MISERABLES turned him around, to Michael’s delight. And our host literally sputters when he learns what Jake’s forfeit is. “You nasty piece of work,” he exclaims. “I love it!” When Jake finishes with the questions, Michael tells him he’s AWESOME! I agree. Jake is playing against his stepdad, Mark, who adores singing, which again makes Michael happy. Michael insists Mark sing, which he does – “Empty Chairs” !! Afterwards, Michael ‘sings’ his praises! Mark is also excellent with the questions, making Michael shriek, “What a duel this is!” This duo is so much fun with Michael, full of laughter and banter. It’s the highest scoring contest EVER. As Michael proclaimed, “What a CRACKING On The Ball” !! Absolutely fabulous! I can’t wait to listen to it again.
Orna is in the house, so they get their ‘traditional cuddle.’ Michael compliments her on her rapid-fire delivery. He then asks for honey and lemon for his cold. When she returns they banter about Michael’s cold and his rosy cheeks. He says it’s probably due to his having a temperature. Okay. I’ll say it again and mean it. Poor baby.
Michael pays a touching tribute to Matthew Perry, who died overnight at the young age of 54, by playing “You’ve Got a Friend.” Like Michael Ball, everyone who worked with him adored him. Nary a bad word was ever spoken about this sweet man. RIP, Matthew Perry. You will be missed.
Michael’s first guest? Here’s a hint: He plays “Hold Me Close. Don’t Let Me Go” to open the segment. Enjoying a lengthy and remarkable career since shooting to fame in 1971 in GODSPELL, David Essex O.B.E. became a pop legend. The object of adoration for teenage girls around the British Isles, David went on to star in films, theatre and television. The peak of David Essex’s international success came in 1973, when he starred in the British coming-of-age drama “That’ll Be The Day.” David hit # 1 on the charts and was nominated for a Grammy for the film’s hit song, “Rock On.” He was also nominated for a BAFTA, which led to many more roles as an actor. He’s starred in “The Eastenders” and in West End musicals, including EVITA, FOOTLOOSE and (drumroll please) ASPECTS OF LOVE. David Essex is about to head out on a huge UK tour, culminating at the iconic London Palladium. David and Michael start by discussing gardening, a surprise but always near and dear to Michael’s heart. David seems to be as much of a fan of tilling the earth as Michael is. Mr. Essex explains his rise to stardom, attributing his success to a great manager, which always makes a difference. He talks about his upcoming tour and how he puts it together. They discuss the ups & downs of touring, also what it was like for David to be a young pop star performing for adoring audiences. It’s an interesting conversation, considering Michael’s own early history with concert touring. They “get” each other, so it’s an enlightening interview, really more of a chat between 2 concert and West End celebrities. David Essex is a fascinating man, and I’d love to see him in concert. The segment closes with “I’m Going To Make You a Star.”
Up next? The Overtones are a UK-based harmony group whose first album, “Good Ol’ Fashioned Love,” debuted at #16 in 2010. Thirteen years later, they’re still going strong and have a number of upcoming projects. Ahead of the launch of their biggest ever Christmas UK tour, they will release their new single “Christmas Everyday” on November 10th. Described as being a “feel good, festive pop song”, it “celebrates the joy of spending time with family and friends during the most wonderful time of year.” In addition, they are committed to raising awareness of diabetes during their upcoming ‘Good Times Tour’. In this pursuit, they will make substantial donations from the proceeds of their new single to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Diabetes UK. The project also involves Britain and America’s Got Talent finalist Tom Ball (a favorite of Michael’s) who is a type 1 diabetic. Tom will join The Overtones as a special guest on their UK Good Times Tour. Michael compliments them on how well-dressed they are, and they shoot back that Michael obviously didn’t get the memo! Ah, Michael and his Sunday morning comfies. May he never change. The 4 gents talk about their long career and their tours and what it’s like to get older in the business. They recall with great joy (and laughs) when the 5 of them sang together. Considering there are 5 people in the studio, it’s an incredibly well done conversation, no one speaking over the other. Again, Michael “gets” them because of his own touring history. This is what Michael Ball does best, this kind of “chat” with friends in the business. He asks the right questions, gives his guests the right prompts. There is so much laughter, so much camaraderie and such genuine mutual admiration among them. And there’s also some touching moments when the subject of diabetes comes up. A stellar interview. Michael closes the segment with The Overtones’ new single “Christmas Every Day.”
In closing, Michael pays tribute to Bill Kenwright, the iconic West End producer and good friend, by playing “Let It Be Me.” Very moving, as only Michael Ball can do.
All of Michael’s guests today have had long and successful careers. They mastered longevity. As for Michael, he hit it big at a young age and could have made a career out of playing every young male lead in every West End musical until he moved well into his 40s. But he didn’t. Instead, he surrounded himself with wise people who gave him good advice. And he listened to them. While maintaining a strong presence on the stage in the West End and on Broadway, he ventured out onto the concert stage, creating a second career for himself. His striking looks – curly hair with ‘blond bits,’ liquid blue eyes, dimples and a stunning smile – made him a heartthrob. And his glorious voice, with its rich power one minute and soft vibrato the next, won him legions of discriminating fans. Michael released album after album, singing every genre of music as the years passed, and he adapted to growing older by choosing the most demanding roles on the stage. Sweeney in SWEENEY TODD. Edna in HAIRSPRAY. And Uncle George in the show that made him a household name in his youth, ASPECTS OF LOVE. His wisdom garnered him two Olivier Awards. He found a new home on the radio, bringing his sense of humor, his theatrical knowledge and his curiosity to the airwaves. Aging would never – COULD NEVER – alter his remarkable talent, his joie de vivre or his childlike exuberance. And with age came a powerful new weapon that eludes the naïveté of the young: Experience. Michael’s ‘career-smarts’ is why he’s still in demand long after so many others have faded or disappeared completely. Longevity. Michael Ball understood it from the very beginning.
One more thing … Ste Softley posted the recent RAJAR results. RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Response) measures the radio audience in the UK, and there is excellent news – “The Michael Ball Show has seen a significant audience increase.” Congratulations to Michael, Ste & the entire BBC Radio 2 team! Also, congratulations to the thousands of listeners around the globe, both new and old, who tune in each Sunday to enjoy the scintillating Michael Ball.
Get well, Michael. There’s no question that you’re under the weather, and your fans feel for you. But if you could hang onto that sultry voice for just a little while longer …
*CopyrightDeborahFezelle2023* This material is the exclusive property of Deborah Fezelle, Michael Ball & the MBFC.