wed 13/12/2017

Michael Ball, Royal Albert Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Michael Ball, Royal Albert Hall

Michael Ball, Royal Albert Hall

A great show singer gives hardcore Ballites a night to remember

“If you feel like singing along... don’t.” Michael Ball knows his audience – I mean, really knows his audience - and only he could turn a rebuke into a well-timed gag. About that audience: the age range is a good half-century but at its heart are the hardcore Ballites, the mums and grandmums who adopted the fresh, smiley, dimple-faced, leading juvenile 25 years ago and have been on his tail ever since.

The defining moment for them was probably a number called “Love Changes Everything” from the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Charles Hart show Aspects of Love. Not one of Lloyd Webber’s best numbers (understatement) but it ended with a full-throated top B, hit the charts, and sold the show out for two years. Ball sang it again here, down a third, I think – that’s called getting older, singing in lower keys, but still sounding like you’ve nailed the big one and scaled Everest. The Ballites were on their feet. One lady in turquoise was having the first of several religious conversions.

Ball brought along some young friends – the classiest backing group imaginable

So what’s the appeal? Well, Michael Ball is incredibly likeable. He’s fun, funny, warm and giving. And he’s the possessor of what is known in the trade as a great "show" voice – probably the best of his generation. “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables brought it all back: the smooth, breathy, richly upholstered high baritone/tenor. Of course, it’s changed somewhat in maturity – the vibrato is breathier, the big money notes are more defiant, and the whole package comes with more of a cabaret loucheness about it. But it’s still Michael Ball and you still feel incredibly secure in his presence.

Ok, so not all of the wide-ranging material was going to please purists like myself who like their rock songs edgier – there was a good smattering of them here ranging from The Killers to Queen and Supertramp – and maybe Bette Midler’s “The Rose” was perhaps a little risky coming so soon after his turn as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. But diversity is important and we still got the stonking ballads like “This Is the Moment” (from Jekyll and Hyde) and “Gethsemane” from the show which Ball insists inspired him to pursue a career in showbiz: Jesus Christ Superstar. No irony there, of course.

And Ball brought along some young friends – the classiest backing group imaginable – co-stars from his various shows, like Adrian Hansel and Ben Ellis from Hairspray and the delicious Emma Williams from Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. Williams really shone in the duet “The Prayer”, which is now pretty much obligatory middle-road fare, and the whole gang delivered one of the evening’s big surprises – a terrific close harmony sextet arrangement of “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” as a tribute to chart-topping Vera Lynn. Ball plainly has his sights set on that kind of longevity.

The final number was the one we heard first in Calum McLeod’s crack big band intro – “The Impossible Dream” (from a small show that grew big, Man of La Mancha). Ball says it was his first audition song and that the audition went rather well. From the way he sings the lyric now you know why. Ball’s a good actor, that’s why, and the dream was never impossible.

Michael Ball is incredibly likeable. He’s fun, funny, warm and giving

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Comments

Thank you Mr Secckerson for giving, as usual, a fair and just review, unlike some of your jumped up, narrow minded fellow critics. You have always acknowledged that Michael Ball is probably the best show singer of his generation but then, the critics generally don't like musicl theatre, why I don't know as it usually keeps the West End going!!! And Michael Ball has been putting lots of bums on lots of seats for 25 years so he can't be that bad!!! And long may he reign! If you had looked back, as I did last night, at the Albert Hall full to capacity of cheering fans (not all Ballites) you would have been moved, just as he was. As a fan of a certain age who has grown up with musical theatre I know that it will never go away and will continue to delight audiences, especially when it has people of the quality of Michael Ball as part of it!!!

michael ball has that rare quality and voice such as the king elvis presley and ı love them both. wish we could get his dvds and cds here in turkey. one of the reasons ı travel to london is to buy his latest releases.

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