Comedy double act still going strong

Bobby Ball and Tommy Cannon

Bobby Ball and Tommy Cannon

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Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball are like man and wife.

They finish each others sentences, laugh at each other jokes, know what the other is thinking. Then again maybe it’s to bit expected - after all, they have been a double-act for more than 50 years, longer than most marriages.

They have had their shares of rows and at one point, at the height of their fame in the 80s, when they were on primetime Saturday night TV, they didn’t speak to each other off-camera for three years.

Thankfully, unlike a married couple, they didn’t split up and go their separate ways.

The pair are still going strong and are enjoying a resurgence of late, Bobby landing some high profile acting roles (most recently in Caroline Aherne’s The Security Men) and the pair were invited to present an award at last weekend’s National Soap Awards.

“In all the years we’ve been together, we’ve never been asked to do anything like that so we were nervous wrecks.” said Tommy.

“But I have to tell you all the soap peole were absolutely fantastic. We thought nobody would know us because there are a lot of young people in soaps now. But they all came up to us and said ‘Cannon and Ball, you’re legends’. We were shocked. Delighted but shocked.”

The pair’s sudden rise back to prominence is good timing for the Grand too, the place where Cannon and Ball will spend seven weeks this summer performing in two shows.

Step Back in Time - a family-friendly show - and the slightly racier Ooh La La run from July to September.

The Grand is optimistic the shows will do brisk business - and it certainly needs them to in these tough times when it is getting increasingly difficult to get people through the theatre doors.

But the good news is that the Grand genuinely seem to have a top quality show on their hands, something which is exciting Cannon and Ball too, who are refreshingly honest about the fact they haven’t perhaps always been able to give people the best value for money.

“The shows look great. It is a cut above the norm and it is a long time since it has been like this in Blackpool,” said Bobby, 69, who lives in St Annes.

“These shows will certainly will give value for money and I don’t think we have been giving value for money.”

Tommy, 74, takes up the theme. “For instance last year when we came to Blackpool - or any theatre, not just here - when we did a summer season and it was one night in Yarmouth, one night in Scarborough, one night in Blackpool, it was just me and Bob. There were no dancers, no band. That’s not giving value for money. That is frustrating for us and it is why we are so excited about this.”

The shows have been produced by SKS Productions, a family company run by former theatre performers and headed by juggler Steve Bor - who performed with Cannon and Ball at the Grand in the 1980s.

“We’ve been working on these shows for a very long time and we are very confident they will be good,” Steve said.

“It has been difficult for theatres - budgets are going down because so many people are not coming, and that leads to shows of a lesser quality.

“But my view is that people have to leave a theatre happy. So from our part we are going to do everything possible that when people walk away they will say ‘that was money really well spent’.”

The shows are described as “continental, Vegas-style” and it isn’t like a traditional variety show with Cannon and Ball headlining and appearing last.

They are part of a cast and will be on stage throughout.

“We are geuninely excited, we think this will be better than anything we’ve done in a long time,” said Tommy.

“And we aren’t just going on and doing an act, we are linking it all together,” added Bobby. “Little new routines are going in. It is the first time Tommy is getting the chance on his own to do comedy properly, which is exciting.

“We just need to get the word out now - in fact that’s where you come in. My wife buys The Gazette every night and she reads about shows and says ‘that sounds good, shall we go and see it?’

“I hope people read this and come and support their local theatre - it’s a beautiful place to watch what will be a cracking show.”

The shows run from July 23 to September 7. Tickets from £15 are available from www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk or the box office on 01253 743339.