It wouldn’t really be Christmas without a new album release by pop classical superstars Michael Ball and Alfie Boe. The boys are back with Together in Vegas, channelling the many singing legends who have made it in the entertainment capital of the world, from Elvis Presley to Tom Jones.
The Big Issue: Were you actually ‘together in Vegas’?
Alfie Boe: We were there in July. Or June. We were there this year.
Michael Ball: We were there in August. That was my first trip. Alfie’s been loads. He showed me around, showed me a good time.
For Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, what happened in Vegas that should have stayed in Vegas?
AB: To be honest, it was literally back-to-back filming, interviews. We did get a chance to go and visit some museums. We saw the Neon Museum where they resurrect all the old signs.
MB: I went and visited Liberace’s costumes in a really strange place, which I loved. We met Wayne Newton.
What does an artist need to be successful in Vegas?
AB: I’ve got myself a residency so I’m still discovering that. I think it’s understanding your audience, making sure that you’re performing quality shows all the time.
MB: The greatest entertainers have gone there at the top of their game. The choice is extraordinary, so you have to do something brilliant in order to sustain it.
What does it say that Alfie’s got a residency there but you, Michael, don’t?
MB: It says I should just give up now.
AB: I think we’d both go down really well in Vegas. We put on a lively show, and it’s got everything that you could really ask for: the quieter moments, the more emotional, sensitive moments and then the party vibe as well.
MB: And a lot of nudity.
Alfie, am I right in saying your residency is in the Westgate, where Elvis had his?
AB: That’s exactly where Elvis performed. I get to use his dressing room.
Do you see the ghost of Elvis?
AB: You know, it is a bit spooky at times.
MB: When Alfie was showing me around, in the wings, they’ve obviously over time re-floored the whole place but there’s one square that they’ve left because it was the spot where Elvis would stand to get into the zone before every performance. And there was a real frisson. You think, bloody hell, this is where he stood before going out and doing his thing. For me the attraction of the album and of Vegas itself is that heritage. Following in the footsteps of those incredible artists. The best did it there.
The opening track of the album is Viva Las Vegas. What do you bring to the song that Elvis didn’t?
MB: Two voices.
Michael also has his first novel, The Empire, out this Christmas. Have you read it yet Alfie?
AB: I didn’t even know he could spell. I didn’t realise he’d written a book.
MB: I got him crayons so he can colour it in.
AB: I actually got my copy today. Michael signed it for me.
Straight on eBay?
AB: No, I’m excited to read it because I bet it’s fabulous.
What’s the story about?
MB: We tour around the country and in every city there are these beautiful theatres. Some of them no longer used, a lot of them have been knocked down in my lifetime. I wanted to celebrate those theatres and the people within them and weave it into a story about one guy starting his career in the theatre in the 1920s, the start of the theatre as we know it now, you know, the beginning of musicals, the influence coming over from America and the great writers of that time.
How do you see the state of health of the theatre at the moment?
MB: It’s interesting. The death knell has been sounded for live performances and theatre since I’ve been in the business. The thing about the talent that works in the theatre is that it’s creative, adaptable, determined, and we always find a way to survive. Through history, when things are tough, you need an outlet.
AB: The pandemic was a prime example. We all got very creative. Lots of online performances and things like that. But we have a duty as entertainers to entertain. And despite what’s thrown at you, we will take the performance to people and give them some joy in any way we can.
MB: You only realise what you’ve lost when it’s gone. Theatre gives you an opportunity to laugh, to cry, to share emotions with a group of strangers in a dark room. It’s really healthy and really cathartic. But you have to keep reminding people that you’ll miss this if it’s no longer there and it’ll only remain as long as you invest in it. That goes for the government as well: invest in it.
AB: And it also feeds other businesses like bars, restaurants, taxi drivers. It creates a lot of work for a lot of people.
MB: It’s just drudgery otherwise. We do it better than anyone in the world. It’s a vital part of our identity. It’s just positive, and we need positives, especially at the moment. But I know it’s hard. If you’ve got a choice between paying your heating bill and going to see a pantomime, you know what you’re going to do. That just shouldn’t be a choice you have to make.
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