Born in Bromsgrove, Michael Ball came back to his roots last night at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, bringing with him the talented tenor Alfie Boe, who started his professional career on that very stage. As we took our seats, ‘BB’ shone out from one of three floor-to-ceiling screens. Prompt to the second, at 7.30 the show began.
Although the title of the tour is ‘Together’, I couldn’t help but feel that they should be apart – the voices didn’t seem different enough and I found myself wishing that Ball had paired with a female singer…until they sang Music of the Night, which is better than any volumising shampoo for making your hairs stand on end. From that point on, the show kept getting Better and Better. I soon realised that the pairing was in fact genius. Think of it as BOGOF – either would have been worth the money individually, but you get them both. You can tell that the two leading men are having the time of their lives on stage, which ripples through the audience like an infectious happiness bug, reaching the heights of the Circle and beyond.
Ball and Boe brought class and, via audience participation, comedy, including a catwalk show of a BB fleece by unsuspecting David, who was also later given a bottle of champagne by Boe after being handed the mic to sing. Quick-witted Ball even managed to change the lyrics to What A Wonderful World to relate to a woman who had snuck out to go to the loo. And one lucky audience member now has pictures of everyone on stage taken by Boe himself.
Although I prefer Collabro’s version of Twilight’s A Thousand Years, BB brought it back to 1-1 in the second half of the show with their rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables, which Alfie has starred in as Jean Valjean. Other highlights include the Blood Brother’s finale song, Tell me it’s not True, Elvis’s Suspicious Minds, which had the audience up on their feet clapping, and the James Bond medley, with Skyfall being so powerful I wouldn’t have been surprised if the sky, well, fell. A show by Ball wouldn’t be complete without Love Changes Everything, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The encore of You’ll Never Walk Alone was a perfect ending to an amazing night.
The musicians were great throughout, but really shone during Love Rain O’er Me, after which some of the audience gave a standing ovation, which then kept getting Bigger and Bigger after each subsequent song, until the whole crowd were on their feet. Ball’s passionate performance of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar drew everyone in. Afterwards, he explained how emotionally charged that vocally challenging song is for him – not only because of the person being represented in it, but because he saw it at the Palace Theatre in London when he was 11 and was amazed by it. He realised at that point the power of musical theatre to impact people’s lives – and it changed his.
With another appearance at Symphony Hall tonight before moving on to complete the final weeks of the tour, if you’re a musical theatre fan, this is a double act not to be missed. Alfie’s fist pump as he exited the stage was justified. BB – Blooming Brilliant!