Ben Richards: Rock of Ages more suited to regional audiences than to London
We talk to Ben Richards, whose credits include Oliver!, 9 to 5 and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, as he prepares to play Stacee Jaxx in the musical Rock Of Ages on tour
What attracted you to Rock of Ages?
The script essentially. It's funny and witty, slightly irreverent and filled with great songs. I especially liked the role of Stacee Jaxx, because in truth, most guys my age grew up wanting to be that rock god! So a chance to play him is amazing.
Are you a fan of music from this era?
Absolutely. Back in the day, I hung out with my buddy Paul in his room listening to AC/DC and Iron Maiden all day long!
How does it feel going from Oliver! in Sheffield to Rock of Ages?
One of my mantras is to change it up; I try not to do the same type of project twice in a row, so to go from an Edwardian thug to a 1980s rock god is perfect for me. I enjoy the process of playing completely different parts, it's what keeps me on my toes.
What do you enjoy about touring?
I love seeing different parts of this beautiful country of ours and performing in front of different people – each city has its own heartbeat and the people in it their own personalities.
You're establishing your role on the road as you're the first to tour the show. Do you have a free reign?
My Stacee Jaxx is a pretty unique one. Whenever I read a character for the first time, I go with what comes off the page for me and I have been very fortunate working with directors who allowed that. Luckily, with this show that has carried on and I've been given a lot of freedom within the boundaries and structure of the show.
The show did well in London but not critically. What does it offer regional audiences?
This show might in some ways be more suited to regional audiences than to London ones, because I think people are more up for having a good time in their local theatre than they are going into London to see the show in the West End.
What's your favourite song in the show?
I love to hear "Cherrie" sung by Noel Sullivan, it's so catchy and Noel sings it so well, but I am equally lucky to get to sing the Foreigner classic "I Want To Know What Love Is", "Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi and to join in with everyone else – including the audience! – with "Don't Stop Believing!"
How do you relax when you're on tour?
With great difficulty! Netflix is a lifesaver: I'm currently getting through Californication. I spend a lot of time in the gym, too, to keep fit for performing.
How are you getting on with the other cast members?
Our Rock of Ages family have united very quickly, we're all looking out for each other and everyone is generally very supportive. I'm sure we're going to have a really good time on this tour.
What's the best thing for you about being in this show?
The heart and sentiment of this show are the most wonderful. The obvious answer would be the great songs we sing, but I love the show's message and you can tell the amount of love that's been instilled in it from its birth.
Rock Of Ages runs at Manchester's Palace Theatre from 6 - 10 May and is touring the UK until 22 November