In the middle of the second act of Michael Ball and Alfie Boe’s concert Together something magical happened. Ball stood still at the front of the stage and sang Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar. For the first time in the concert the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. Tears started to slide down the face of the lady next to me.

As he built the song dramatically and musically, plumbing every emotion, you could feel an electrical surge around the theatre and that shared shiver-down-the-spine moment of ecstasy as he soared to the money note. It was sublime. Ball showed why he’s a star and the audience went wild.

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe. Photograph taken in Brisbane © Mitch Lowe

Until that point, both men had sung impressively enough but without generating much emotion, while many of the musical arrangements had done little for the songs. Funnily enough, the songs that had fared best were pop and rock numbers, notably John Farnham’s anthemic You’re the Voice – though Boe had raised the bar just before Gethsemane with a moving version of Snow Patrol’s Run. But it was with Gethsemane that the concert found its sweet spot.

Ball is one of Britain’s most famous musical theatre stars, having originated roles such as Marius in Les Misérables, Alex in Aspects of Love and Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Boe trained as an operatic tenor. He was a member of the Royal Opera House’s Vilar Young Artists Program and played Rodolfo in Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème on Broadway in 2002. However, he is best known for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, a role he has played in London’s West End, in the 25th Anniversary Concert, and in the recent Broadway revival.

The two of them have been friends since they met performing in a production of Kismet for the English National Opera in 2007. When they recorded a Christmas album last year called Together, it shot to number one and became the highest selling album in the UK in 2016. They have now recorded a follow-up album due for release at the end of this month called Together Again – “it took a focus group months to come up with that!” quipped Ball.

Together in Concert is performed in Australia with a 15-piece band led by musical director Callum McCloud and three backing vocalists on a tiered-set backed by a screen on which projections (some verging on the cheesy) and dynamic lighting create a sense of razzle-dazzle. The concert begins with the distinctive voices of Ball and Boe heard singing Somewhere from West Side Story from off-stage. Then they bounce on stage for a version of Tonight, which is so jauntily up-tempo, with the audience urged to clap along, that the true spirt of the romantic ballad is steam-rollered.

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe. Photograph taken in Brisbane © Mitch Lowe

Dressed in tight black jeans and jackets in the first act, with Boe sporting trendy high-top sneakers, and more formal suits in the second, they both have star power, though Ball is the more relaxed and natural charmer with a perennial twinkle in his eye, shimmying comically across the stage at one point and sharing jokes with the audience in a cheeky, endearing fashion. There’s plenty of banter between them throughout the night with Boe apparently unable to start singing Wonderful World for laughing. Whether that was a set up I wasn’t sure but the playful camaraderie between them is clearly genuine.

They both have exciting voices ­– Boe’s more operatic tenor has the greater power and a ringing top, while Ball’s musical theatre voice has more warmth and lyricism. Their legions of fans clearly love them as a double act, but their voices don’t blend to become more than the sum of their parts when they duet, the way some voices do. Perhaps it’s a function of having two tenors singing together, but it often feels as if they are singing together, rather than their voices blending magically to create something special when they harmonise.

They sang a powerful Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera together but the song didn’t soar as sublimely as it can, and the lush orchestration for Tell Me It’s Not True from Blood Brothers overwhelmed the emotion in the song, which didn’t touch the heart. In the first act, it was You’re The Voice that really took off, along with an entertaining Elvis medley. There was also a nice change of pace when the sound was reined in for a pairing of Wonderful World and Over the Rainbow, which began with just a guitar duet (Murray Gould and Sam Grimley).

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe. Photograph taken in Brisbane © Mitch Lowe

The second act included a Rat Pack salute with Luck Be a Lady, New York, New York and a fun, rousing Bond medley. Boe led some rather clunky audience participation to Warren Zevon’s Keep Me In Your Heart but raised the temperature with his powerful rendition of Snow Patrol’s Run. And from here the concert took off. After Gethsemane, which Ball prefaced with a story about how being taken to see Superstar at age 12 made an incredible impact on him, he sang one of his signature numbers Love Changes Everything from Aspects of Love, telling an anecdote about Andrew Lloyd Webber first playing him the song, complete with a very funny imitation of said Lord.

Then came a stunning medley from Les MisBring Him Home, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, I Dreamed a Dream and One Day More – which had a rapturous audience on their feet cheering, before You’ll Never Walk Alone as an encore.

Ball and Boe are both great entertainers and in Together they certainly deliver but for me the real musical highlights came when they were singing solo, with Gethsemane an unforgettable moment.


Michael Ball and Alfie Boe perform Together in Concert at ACE Theatre, Adelaide on Saturday October 14 and at Crown Theatre, Perth on Monday October 16.

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