After eliminating thousands of hopefuls to get down to the top 100, then 40, 30, 20 and, eventually 11 finalists, the live Superstar shows then whittled down the field to the final three. Roger finished in third place, Rory proved a very worthy second place and the winner, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new Jesus, is the 31 year old from Sunderland, Ben Forster
Tell me about that incredibly emotional winning moment.
Honestly, I’m just the kind of person who wears my heart on my sleeve. I think my friends and the people I work with have always been able to tell what kind of mood I am in – I’m quite a positive person, but you can always tell if I am really happy about something or if I am annoyed about something so, at that moment I think the people watching just saw right inside me. All that raw emotion was just me.
I really did not expect Amanda to call out my name, because I had a bit of a mishap at the beginning of “Who Wants to Live Forever”, and, to be honest, I thought I had blown it really. So, I really didn’t expect it to happen so when it did happen it was really weird. I’d been standing there preparing myself for her to say Rory and I was repeating his name really slowly in my head so that I was ready to turn to him and say something nice and when she said Ben my knees just went completely.
It was really weird and a bit like something just exploded deep inside me. I needed to get some emotion out because I knew that if Amanda tried to talk to me I would just cry so I tried to let a few blubs out at the back of the stage and then just enjoy what was just the most amazing moment of my life. It was like being in the middle of a Hollywood movie, but it wasn’t a movie – it was my life. It was something absolutely amazing that had just happened in my life, a real moment, and I don’t think that most people ever get to experience a moment like that.
There were millions of people watching, there was confetti falling, music playing, all the other guys from the competition came back on stage, there was a choir, all my family and friends were there, everyone in the studio was up on their feet – it was a moment that you could never re-create and, until my dying day, I’ll remember that as one of the best moments of my life.
Did it feel like it happened in slow motion, or did it whizz past?
I was kind of like slow motion yes, when she said Ben it seemed like that took about 30 seconds just to say my name, and then it was just pure elation – it almost felt like my blood was tingling throughout my body.
How much of the life you had before is still there now, and how much is brand new?
Obviously, all of my personal life, the house I live in, my family, my friends, all of that is the same but, at the same time it’s very different now when, for instance, I get on the tube – which I have done every day as I’ve had back to back meetings all week. I’m going from place to place, trying to make decisions about what to do next, and who could be the right people to work with and even just walking though Leicester Square or going through Soho to get to meetings people have been so nice.
Everyone has been stopping me, talking to me, congratulating me and it’s really weird because I’ve gone from West End performer, or just someone who sings in pubs and clubs at some points, to kind of being famous. Even if it just lasts for a few weeks it’s really great to be able to experience it, because I’ve never really wanted to be famous but it is nice, it’s a very nice feeling, when people congratulate you, not for being well-known, but for your voice. If anything, I am more pleased that it is my voice that is famous.
I’m sure it must be fun suddenly being in the public eye.
Absolutely, I mean I was invited to a sensational event on Monday night hosted by the Prime Minister and the Duchess of Cambridge. It was a celebration of people who represent art and the creative cultures of Great Britain – and I got an invitation to that. I walked the red carpet, had my picture taken by a thousand paparazzi, did interviews and, for me to experience something like that is priceless and I felt so proud to be there.
To have come through a really hard task, and that show was really hard and tremendous pressure, I have never done anything like that in my life, and to feel that sort of pressure every day, to know that you have to sing for the panel, and the studio audience, and everyone out there in their houses – that’s a really weird feeling and, now that I have won through, I am having to get used to a lot of new things.
But I assume the real pressure happens in a few weeks time doesn’t it?
Yeah. When you look at certain parts of your life, not just me, anyone, I think you can go “Wow, how did I get through that?”, whether it’s a good part or a bad part, whether it’s something exciting or something terrible, whether it’s learning to drive or watching someone pass away, you just go “How did I, as me, as a human being, get through an experience like that?”.
This is another one of those things that, looking back on it, I’ll wonder how I got through it, but, however tough it is, however difficult the pressure is, I’ll just do it because that’s my job, I really want to do it and I am so excited about starting rehearsals. It does terrify me, the thought of walking out of the dressing room at the O2 arena, putting one foot in front of the other to get to the stage to star as Jesus in this production of Jesus Christ Superstar, but it does excite me and I really want to do it, and do it well.
Well, the public seem very keen to see you, the tour is getting bigger and bigger with 40,000 tickets sold for London, 100,000 around the country, £5 million in advance sales already – so, no pressure on you then!
Oh my god, yeah, it’s just huge. I know it is so clichéd, but I really do feel so honoured to be doing it. It has been just over a week now since the TV show finished and the very next day we sold quite a lot of tickets and that’s a really nice feeling. We had already announced that Melanie C, Chris Moyles and Tim Minchin would be starring in the show, and we were well ahead of ticket sales expectations – the whole tour had sold really well but, this last week it has done even better. Hopefully people want to see the chemistry between Mel and me, what we can bring to the parts and also to witness the whole spectacle of the show.
Have you had any insight into the role and the production yet?
At the wrap party I had a very, very, brief conversation with the Director, Lauremce Connor and we discussed about the role. I am taking it really seriously and I don’t want to do anyone’s version of the part, I want it to be my version of Jesus and I think that, as people voted for me for my voice, my personality and for the person that I am, I really want them to see just that.
Andrew’s comments to me, when he was on the panel, were often about my acting ability and the fact that my acting was “real”, and I do want to do the role like that. He said that he wants a part of me to be in that role and that’s what I’m going to be working on. It’s such a big part and it’s such an important job that I just need to take it really seriously and work as hard as I can before we open.
As for the look and feel of the production, we haven’t started rehearsals yet and so I haven’t had any real insight – I’ve heard a few rumours, but they are probably the same ones that everyone else has heard. Some people have said that they think it might be set in modern times, others say it will be traditional, but I’ll be just as excited whatever it is.
On top of all of this, you also have a new album out don’t you?
Do you know what, it actually a coincidence that it’s come out now, but a lucky one. It’s called Acoustic Covers and it wasn’t actually made to coincide with the TV show, I’d been doing a lot of gigs and a few friends of mine had started making albums and selling them at their gigs and I wanted to be able to do the same.
I’ve been doing that style of music for such a long time, and I have a nice group of people who follow me around when I’m singing and so it was mainly for them. It’s a very simple album, just me and a guitar in a recording studio, singing a song live and putting the first take straight onto the CD. It really is relaxing and quite chilled out. It’s my version of some of the most famous and well known songs and, originally, it was made just to, lightly, celebrate what I’ve been doing for five years but now it’s got much more of a spotlight on it than I thought it would.
Do you have any idea yet as to what might happen after the tour of Jesus Christ Superstar?
Actually, I’ve already had a few really fantastic offers but I obviously need to see what may or may not happen with the tour after here, whether it might go on anywhere else, in a different country, I have no idea yet. I am just going to focus everything on the tour right now. I am talking to a few different people about different projects and they are all so exciting so, if any of them come off, it would be just fantastic.
And all you have to do, between now and then, is get through "Gethsemane" 19 times!
Oh my good God – and 119 times in rehearsals and about 300 times in my bedroom. It’s a very scary prospect because it’s just the biggest song ever – it’s epic, but I am so excited about it. I’ve been singing it since I was about 12, at the top of my voice, crying my eyes out in front of my mirror.
I really hope that I can help to provoke that sort of emotion in the audience. I’ve got a lot of passion for the show, and for the role. I talked to Mel for about half an hour, at the wrap party, and she is so passionate about what she is about to do and she has so much belief in it, as does Tim and I really hope that, when we all get together, we can find that magic that is there in everyone’s heart and I really hope, and believe, that it will come across - I honestly think it’s going to be a fantastically spectacular show.
Ben Forster can be seen in Jesus Christ Superstar at The O2 Arena, London (21-23 Sept), Glasgow SECC (25 Sept), Newcastle Metro Radio Arena (28 Sept), Manchester Arena (30 Sept + 7 Oct), Cardiff Motorpoint (2-3 Oct), Birmingham NIA (4-5 Oct), Belfast Odyssey (9 Oct), Dublin O2 (12-13 Oct), Liverpool Echo Arena (16 Oct), Nottingham Capital FM Arena (19-20 Oct) and Sheffield Motorpoint (21 Oct)