I’m very excited to be taking part in the blogtour for the one and only Michael Ball’s debut novel The Empire. I’m a big fan of Michael’s and have seen him and Alfie Boe in concert a few times. With all his theatre experience I was looking forward to an real treat with his insider’s showbiz knowledge and I wasn’t disappointed. Huge thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for having me as part of the tour and providing an e-copy through Netgalley for review.
About the book
Welcome to The Empire theatre
1922. When Jack Treadwell arrives at The Empire, in the middle of a rehearsal, he is instantly mesmerised. But amid the glitz and glamour, he soon learns that the true magic of the theatre lies in its cast of characters – both on stage and behind the scenes.
There’s stunning starlet Stella Stanmore and Hollywood heartthrob Lancelot Drake; and Ruby Rowntree, who keeps the music playing, while Lady Lillian Lassiter, theatre owner and former showgirl, is determined to take on a bigger role. And then there’s cool, competent Grace Hawkins, without whom the show would never go on . . . could she be the leading lady Jack is looking for?
When long-held rivalries threaten The Empire’s future, tensions rise along with the curtain. There is treachery at the heart of the company and a shocking secret waiting in the wings. Can Jack discover the truth before it’s too late, and the theatre he loves goes dark?
Musical theatre legend Michael Ball brings his trademark warmth, wit and glamour to this, his debut novel.
Enjoy the show!
First of all, I liked the way this book was structured. The various sections are named as if they were parts of a play from the overture and beginners call, through the various acts to the interval, finale and the curtain calls.
There is a large cast of characters who I admit were at first difficult to keep in my head. There is a cast list at the beginning which would be very helpful with a physical copy but not as easy with kindle. However, I soon got to know the main players, notably Jack the stage door manager who works his way up to company manager, Grace the assistant to the theatre manager Alexander Mangrave, theatre owner Lady Lillian Lassiter, Billy Barlow a music hall performer, Usher Barton the director and so many more.
There is a lot going all in this book and we get to see all aspects of theatre life from backstage, to performers, to front of house to patrons. We get to see how a theatre production arrives at the smooth show we see on stage. It’s not all plain sailing backstage with drama, danger, secrets, tantrums and under-handedness. But there’s friendship, loyalty, determination, dedication and love too. With the book taking place post WW1, we see the continuing effects of the war on people both physically and mentally. In some of the most damaged characters we see courage and willingness to speak up for what is right.
Michael Ball has packed a lot into his story and it’s written with the good-natured and cheerful humour I associate with him. His own insight into the theatre business has been used to good effect in the book. His love for the theatre industry is clear. With glitz and glamour, twists and turns I think this would make a terrific Sunday evening period drama if it was adapted for tv. As a book, I found it a really warm and entertaining read. I hope the curtain rises again at The Empire and we get to find out what happens next for Jack and Grace and the whole cast.
About the Author
Michael Ball OBE is a singer, actor, presenter and now author. He’s been a star of musical theatre for over three decades, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical twice, he’s also won two BRIT awards and been nominated for a Grammy. Michael regularly sells out both his solo tours and his Ball & Boe shows with Alfie Boe and has multiple platinum albums. The Empire is his first novel.