With the opening night of the arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar getting ever closer, and rehearsals in full swing, I managed to get some time to chat to Superstar winner Ben Forster about how he is dealing with the reality of having his dream come true.
How are you coping now that everything is becoming more “real”?
It’s bizarre, and it definitely has become a lot more real. I’m just getting into the swing of things really, getting into a routine of dealing with all the rehearsals. It’s amazing, I get to sing with Mel C every day and although it’s still like “Wow”, I’ve even started getting used to that to the point that I don’t even think about it now. When I’m sitting and singing with Mel, or acting with her, or with Tim Minchin it’s really started to feel much more normal.
Last time we spoke you were almost overwhelmed at getting the chance to live your dream, how does it feel to be doing it?
Do you know what, it really does feel like being in a dream. This is going to sound so corny, but it’s just so amazing. Waking up and getting ready for work each day, knowing what I am about to go and do, it’s like something that I was really fighting for - and it’s not like I just fought for it in that competition, I feel like I have been fighting for it forever.
From the moment I decided that I wanted to go to stage school and even before that, to all the reasons that made me want to go to stage school, I was fighting for this dream – to be the leading man in a massive production - and now that’s what I am doing each and every day. It just feels totally amazing.
Even the little things like my car to work. Every day I get picked up in the most beautiful car and it brings me back home every night and it is things like that which make it feel so much like a dream. It’s just so much out of “my world”.
Talking of “your world”, how much contact do you have with your family and friends?
Obviously, with all my friends, I am trying to keep in contact. Everyone is very excited about what I’m doing and so I’m hearing from everyone and I’m trying to keep them up-to-date with what’s going on. I speak to my parents everyday and I’m in touch with my sister and my nephews and, as I’m really excited about it myself, I don’t think it would be so much fun if I had to keep it all to myself. I really like calling everyone and saying “oh my God, this happened today” or “that happened today” and “this is exciting” – it’s all part of it really so yes, I am keeping in contact but I’m not really seeing anyone so it’s mainly on the phone.
Are you beginning to get a feel for the production now?
Oh yes, we’ve started working on a makeshift set in the rehearsal rooms so we do have an idea of the set, which does make it a bit easier to really get into the character. Yesterday was our first run through from beginning to end and it’s just the most emotional journey that any actor could play. I can’t imagine a harder way that you have to die every night or harder things to contemplate and it’s my job to get all that raw emotion and that entire story through in the songs and that is the most difficult bit to do – it’s emotionally exhausting.
I came off the set yesterday and Chris Moyles was standing there and he was telling me that it was awesome and brilliant and I just looked at him and I started crying. Because I had literally just died on the set I was so emotionally involved that it took me about 20 minutes to calm down and get the lump out of my throat.
I know a lot of the production details are secret, but it has been revealed that it has a modern setting.
Yes, it is modern and it’s a complete re-invention of the show. The music is exactly the same so you don’t have to worry – nothing has been changed. It’s very much living up to the way it always has been and, if anything, it’s more like the original. Staging wise, it’s just brilliant because, being set in the present, it’s something that, as an actor, you can relate to. It’s much more relevant to our lives, to YOUR lives, so that the people who come to watch the production will really be able to relate to what’s happening on stage.
When it’s set in the past you have to start by going on a journey back 2000 years and it would be really difficult to know what it was like to heal a leper – but by changing it so that it might be someone with HIV, or a homeless person, or a heroin addict or someone like that I can relate to how that might work.
So, a re-invention for a new generation?
Absolutely, and I think that it really works. I really love it and I think that, if I came to see it, I would be completely blown away by it. I think everyone who has ever seen the show before should come along and see how much more relevant this production is.
I understand that it’s emotionally draining, but how much fun is it?
Oh, you know, it’s just so brilliant. Working with Tim is great because he is just hilarious and Mel is actually really funny too. There’s a really lovely, good, fun bond between us all. The thing is I don’t think that anyone is here for money, no one’s here because they needed a job to pay them loads of money.
Everyone is here because they fought to be in it and they really want to do it. I’ve spoken to you before about Mel’s passion for the show and I know that Tim was desperate to get the part – he really wanted it. There is this feeling of total passion when we are working and everyone throws themselves right into it.
Chris Moyles as well, I’m not leaving him out. He was really nervous on the first few days but now he’s so excited about playing his part, and appearing in a show like this for the very first time. He’s got this amazing persona and he’s a real larger-than-life character and his number is just brilliant. He gives it everything.
And you’re working with a couple of your Superstar friends as well.
Yes, I am. I couldn’t tell you last time we spoke, could I? I knew, but I wasn’t allowed to say. They are both in it; both of them are really loving it and doing very well. Jeff Anderson is my first cover as Jesus and Tim Prottey-Jones is first cover Judas.
I am really looking forward to seeing the production just to see what so much combined passion can deliver.
I am really certain that everyone who comes along will feel it. We’re already feeling it and we’re just in a rehearsal room, with no rock band, no costumes, no lights and still it feels like the show is in a really good place already. I have total confidence that, once we get to opening night, everyone will give everything they’ve got to make this production something extra special.
Ben can be seen in Jesus Christ Superstar at The O2 Arena, London (21-23 Sept), Glasgow SECC (25-26 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), Wembley Arena (17 Oct), Nottingham Capital FM Arena (19-20 Oct) and Sheffield Motorpoint (21 Oct)