BWW Review: MICHAEL BALL AND ALFIE BOE: BACK TOGETHER, SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Michael Ball and Alfie Boe recently shared the Gielgud Theatre stage as Javert and Jean Valjean respectively in Les Miserables: The Staged Concert. They now return to the stage, in their third UK tour as a double act and launched their 10-date tour in Glasgow this evening.
Following folk-filled support from Johnny Mac & The Faithfull, Ball and Boe's show, titled Back Together begins with a dramatic low drone and the duo open the show with "The Greatest Show" from The Greatest Showman - a very popular opening number for "songs from the shows" concerts these days, which has some of their adoring fans on their feet from the very beginning.
The pair show off their versatile voices with an eclectic set spanning multiple genres, from Sondheim to Queen, amongst other numbers. There's certainly something for everyone and as it is the third outing of this duo, there are some lesser-known numbers that feature in the first part of the set. Not forgetting their time on the barricade, a Les Mis medley is well received by the audience to multiple standing ovations.
The pair also give each other time to shine on stage in their own right: Boe's lyrical tenor floats above the audience in a stripped back arrangement of "Bring Him Home", led on guitar by Murray Gould; and his version of Snow Patrol's "Run" is quite the atmospheric number, punctuated by the spontaneous swaying of smartphone torches around the SSE Hydro auditorium.
Ball delights the audience with "Love Changes Everything" from Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love and even allows Boe to join him in his signature number. A nod to current division in the nation is a sincere introduction to "Anthem" from Chess, a throwback to Ball's time playing Anatoly Sergievsky in the ENO revival of Chess at the London Coliseum. Ball will soon be returning to the Coliseum to reprise his Olivier Award-winning performance as Edna Turnblad in a revival of Hairspray.
The rapport between Boe and Ball is evident and while their chat between songs is a little sparse in the first half of the show, they eventually take some time to share stories and antics from their time in Les Mis which injects humour into the evening's proceedings.
The pair are joined on stage by a rhythm band; a sextet of singers who provide warm and supportive vocals; and classical musicians from The National Symphony Orchestra who give full and committed backing to every number.
Creative arrangements, including a particularly driving rendition of "Something Inside So Strong" have many heads in the room bobbing along to the music, led by musical directors, Callum McLeod on keys and Gould on guitar.
Behind the musicians, intricate visual design by Mark Cunniffe complements every number, from starscapes to American highways. The colourful graphics add to the stories within the songs.
A few first night jitters mean several musical moments, unfortunately, fall flat when communication between the duo and the other forces on stage is lacking, notably in more exposed numbers. While not the most together of ensembles, the crowd are certainly entertained seeing Michael Ball and Alfie Boe Back Together on tour.