I love musical interviews. The one I recorded with George Ball a couple of days ago for Voices from the North was a pure delight for me. I like to think it was for George as well. George has spent a lifetime performing on stage in the likes of Man of La Mancha, Camelot and Sweeney Todd. He has acted on television in The Young, Cheers and The Restless and General Hospital and his powerfully commanding voice provides narration for documentaries or television specials including A&E Biography and The Discovery Channel.

The complete interview is here:

We played some tracks from A BROADWAY CELEBRATION. George describes the serendipitous way this class act started in Maldonado’s restaurant in Pasadena California and then how George Ball, Lainie Nelson, Susan Watson and Dan Gettinger went on the road with it as a Columbia Artists Community Concert series for something like seven years. The premise for A Broadway Celebration was to choose the songs the performers most loved and then to bring the audience in with the stories of why these particular songs were chosen. It was the most successful touring show ever booked by Columbia Artists. George describes the good, the bad and the ugly of being on the road. Actually it was mostly good as the company reached audiences in towns all over America, touring with a big forty foot Winnebago motor home. From world class venues to high school auditoriums; from Murfreesboro, Tennessee to Montevideo, Minnesota, A Broadway Celebration reached out to Americans everywhere from 1994 to 2000. The tracks featured in our interview are:

  1. Wanna Sing a Showtune (song by Ray Jessel performed by the whole cast of Lainie Nelson, Susan Watson, Dan Gettinger and George Ball)
  2. They Don’t Believe Me (a Jerome Kern and Herbert Reynolds song performed by George Ball)
  3. People – Small World Medley (arranged by Glen Mehrbach for Susan Watson and George Ball)
  4. How to Handle a Woman (Lerner & Loewe – George Ball)
  5. Medley from Phantom of the Opera (Arrangement by Dan Gettinger 3 ½ minutes of a 9 ½ minute track that really showcases George’s voice)

George tells the story of going to NYC to audition for the Merv Griffin Show, missing that chance and getting angry. He then visited his agent who said George would be perfect for a new hit show opening in Greenwich Village, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. George had been doing musicals like Oklahoma. He’d never heard music like that created by the Belgian/French legend, Brel, and the anger he brought into the audition got him the role. Oh, how things sometimes work out in mysterious ways!

Roger Befeler, Kim Huber, Amanda McBroom and George Ball, in Center Theatre Group’s Salon XVI at the Taper

George went on to tour with that show in all the major cities in America and it was through this that he met his wife-to-be, Amanda McBroom (they’ve now been together for 41 years and married for 36 of them). The two of them took the show to the Netherlands where they performed in something like 60 theatres around that country. As George says, Jacques Brel’s music is part of the fabric of his life.

Amanda McBroom wrote a musical called Heartbeats starring Amanda as a woman, Annie, about to celebrate (if that’s the word) her 40th birthday and 20th anniversary. Annie fell for Steve (played by George Ball) the first minute they met. Two children and twenty years later they’re still in love but they’ve forgotten how to say it. The first song we feature in the interview from Heartbeats is:

Old Habits Die Hard (Amanda McBroom and Michelle Brourman – George Ball) The lyrics are astounding Here are just a few of the words which I hope I’ve reproduced accurately: Old habits die hard, old rivers run deep, and the promises made to the one you love are the hardest ones to keep.  The song brings tears to my eyes. It took George 10 tries before he could actually sing it, so moved was he by the lyrics.

 The last song played during the interview is:

All This Time (Amanda McBroom and Tom Snow – duet with Amanda and George)

George Bll is now available for voice overs. He’s currently recording a talking book. I look forward to his next visit to our sunny shores when we can bring more of his beautiful singing to you.

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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.

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