Ben swaps the cross for cross-dressing
ANYONE who thinks it's easy being actor might have a change of heart after hearing the physical pain Ben Forster is having to endure in his latest role in The Rocky Horror Show.
The winner of last year's ITV1 show Superstar is proving how diverse he can be, going from playing a religious icon to donning killer high heels as Brad in cult classic The Rocky Horror Show.
Richard O'Brien's masterpiece is celebrating its 40th anniversary and is back with a new production for a year-long run which kicked off last month.
Its second stop is Torquay's Princess Theatre from Monday, January 7, to Saturday, January 12. Touring with Ben in the world's favourite rock 'n' roll musical is X-Factor star and double-platinum selling artist Rhydian as Rocky, former Emmerdale and Waterloo Road actress Roxanne Pallett as Janet, and West End star Oliver Thornton.
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It isn't unusual for things to be thrown on stage, and the one thing Ben might be grateful for is plasters to soothe the blisters on his feet.
"I was a heel virgin before the show," Ben said. "I've been having lessons on how to walk, never mind dance. It's quite funny.
"I'm in so much pain I can't move. I don't know how women do it. My legs, hips and even my ribs are hurting and I think it's all from wearing heels."
The Rocky Horror Show tells the story of Brad and his fiancée Janet, two squeaky clean college kids who meet Dr Frank'n'Furter by chance when their car breaks down outside his house while on their way to visit their former college professor. It is an adventure they'll never forget, with fun, frolics, frocks and frivolity, bursting with timeless songs and outrageous outfits.
And Ben is glad it couldn't be more different from his previous lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar.
"It's one of the reasons it appealed to me," said Ben. "If I'm honest, I wanted the next thing I did to be as different as possible. I don't want to be typecast playing any sort of role. I wanted to keep my options open as best as I can, and you really can't get more of a contrasting part. People will definitely see a different side to me wearing stilettos.
"It's such a fun show and there are so many innuendos and jokes in there that's it's hard to stay focused and get the work done. Roxanne is hysterical to work with. I can't even look at her sometimes without bursting into laughter.
"It is a lot to live up to because of the musical's cult following. Hopefully I will surpass it and create a more updated version."
If the last 12 months are anything to go by then Ben really has no worries about winning over the audience.
He won the nation's heart in 2012 when he was voted the public's favourite in TV talent show Superstar to star in the 21st century reinvention of Andrew Llyoy-Webber's musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
When he won the show Ben said he really wasn't expecting it, and he admits he still can't believe how much it has transformed his life.
"I wanted to win but the competition I was up against was amazing," said Ben. "Even at that very last moment when I was waiting for Amanda Holden to say who had won, I thought she would say Rory Taylor. When I heard her say my name it was the most unbelievable feeling. I can't describe it.
"It's a real moment, not a movie, and it's one which is actually going to change your life."
It has certainly done that because Ben's feet have barely had a chance to touch the ground with all the exciting opportunities to have come his way.
"It's been a whirlwind of amazing things," said Ben. "First there was the television show, the tour and then knowing it was going to go on DVD and seeing it released in cinemas all around the world.
"Then I got the Rocky Horror Show and now it's been announced there will be another arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. It's just brilliant and has been more of a prize than I ever wanted to win."
When it comes to picking a highlight from the last year, Ben doesn't hesitate in saying it was singing Gethsemane on stage at the O2 in front of 15,000 people.
"It was everything I wanted and more," said Ben. "It's what performers like Beyonce and Robbie Williams get to do. I got to experience that, and this March I will get to do it again."
It's an unbelievable achievement considering the 31-year-old once abandoned his dream of being a stage star in favour of a career as a singer-songwriter.
Originally from Sunderland, and now based in London, Ben was a child singer and actor who won a scholarship at the prestigious Italia Conti Academy in London at the age of 16.
However, it wasn't a full scholarship and his parents remortgaged their house to pay for his training.
Ben said: "My parents' house was not even worth the school fees. I had a few random career desires like wanting to be a marine biologist, but I always came back to singing and decided that was what I wanted to do when I was 12. I started singing every day, doing classes and going to see as many productions locally as I could.
"My parents were hugely supportive. My mum wanted me to get something behind me so when I left school I joined a YTS scheme. I only did it for a year but I got a qualification as a graphic designer and then went to stage school."
During his training he heavily featured in the BBC's prime time fly-on-the-wall documentary The Dream Academy, and his West End debut came on his 18th birthday in La Cava which ran for nine months. He then landed a year-long role in the Beatles musical All You Need is Love.
It was during its run Ben developed a new talent for songwriting, leading him to concentrate on a career as a solo singer for a few years.
"I worked for a couple of independent record labels and made some of my own music, but I never released an album with them," said Ben.
"I had to decide whether I wanted to be a West End performer or singer-songwriter. It wasn't until a few years ago that I made my choice. When I looked at my life, singing wasn't what I wanted and I auditioned for Superstar as a way of getting back into the scene."
Although Ben might not have been certain at the time whether he was making the right choice, it is now clear his destiny was the stage and his return couldn't have been more dramatic or life changing.
Ben said: "I kind of knew winning was a massive deal, but I didn't know and I still don't how long it will last. It's up to me to carry on and make the right decisions and do the right things. I'm going to see how long I can ride the wave until I come up against the next one."
Ben will finish his run in The Rocky Horror Show at the end of February and will then be straight back into the role of Jesus.
"I think I get one day off before the tour so it's going to be a busy year," said Ben. "The year 2012 was amazing and is one I will never forget. It's kind of been 'my year' and I think I will always look back at 2012 and say, 'That's the year I won the equivalent of the Grammys'. It will take some topping.
"I would like to thank everyone who has supported me. That's still the thing I think about everyday of how I have got all these opportunities because people believed in me and actually picked up their telephone and voted for me. As corny as it sounds I am thankful to everyone who did.
"I honestly don't know why they did. It still blows my mind. I don't know what it was about me – I'm just glad they did."
Tickets for the show cost £10 to £35. Call 0844 871 7627 or visit www.princess theatre. org.uk