Ball and Boe: One Night Only

Don’t be fooled by the title: in teaming up West End boys Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, I reckon ITV might be hoping they’ve found their new Ant and Dec. Or, perhaps more accurately, their new Cannon and Ball (no relation).

Because there was something curiously and (don’t tell any cool hipsters I said this) delightfully old-fashioned about this TV special – a mix of music and good-natured bantz of the sort that was common currency when Bobby Ball was twanging his braces to 20 million viewers a week.

Boe is the grittier(ish) northern one, discovered singing in a Lancashire car factory, while Ball gamely played along as an exaggerated, slightly preening version of himself, quick to remind Boe he’d won two Olivier Awards. (One of them for playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, which makes sense, as there’s something of the panto dame about him.)

No light ents cliché was left unexplored. It opened with a medley of songs from the shows, before the pair loosened their black ties and repaired to an on-stage cocktail par to indulge in some playful, teasing one-upmanship. When Rick Astley came on, they battled to impress him with the most operatic take on Never Gonna Give You Up (which Boe won – he’s got a tenor voice that could loosen concrete). Then they all sang something off Rick’s new album.

Their second guest was ‘the incomparable Maria Friedman’, who the duo proceeded to wind up by bellowing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in her ear while she was trying to do a Barbra Streisand number. I haven’t seen that particular routine since Eddie Large last tried to ruin one of Supersonic Syd Little’s music spots.

The big finale was a selection of songs from Les Mis, including that showstopping weepie, Bring Him Home. Cheesy, yes, but I think Ball and Boe’s good-natured, unpretentious brand of entertainment will have been welcomed by a large section of the audience who television doesn’t really cater for any more. There may be troubles ahead but, for one night only, there was music and moonlight and love and bromance.

TV extra:



I don’t know if someone at Doctors needs their meds adjusting but this entire edition of the daytime medical soap was dedicated to a no-frills stage production of A Christmas Carol, played entirely straight with what appeared to be the budget of a primary school nativity play. It was basically the Doctors version of the CBeebies Panto, but with gluttonous GP Al Haskey and feisty practice nurse Ayesha in place of Bernard Cribbins and Mr Tumble. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it ever happened.


Adele in New York City

A ‘once in a generation artist’ is how Jimmy Fallon introduced Adele at the start of this concert at NYC’s Radio City Music Hall. And when you look at her sales figures, it hard to disagree. Her performance was faultless, of course – her voice is virtually a superpower – but it’s a shame they edited out so much of the cackling, sweary between-song banter: it feels like you’re only getting half the Adele experience. Nice to see she had a brew on stage, though. You can take the girl out of England…

Published in Waitrose Weekend, December 15, 2016

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