“I OWE it all to fans in my home city.” So said Sunderland Superstar Ben Forster as he took a trip to his old school ahead of his gig at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena.
Millfield actor Ben Forster and co-star Michael Pickering went back to school just hours before they were due to go on stage last night for Jesus Christ Superstar.
Ben, 31, and his former school friend arrived at Thornhill School to cheers and told pupils to work hard and follow their passions.
They also thanked teachers at the comprehensive for inspiring them to succeed.
Talented Ben and Michael were both stars of school productions before going to drama school then treading the boards in the West End.
They have now became household names after Ben beat thousands of hopefuls in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ITV show Superstar to clinch the role of Jesus.
His school friend also landed a part in the hit musical as disciple Peter.
Ben, who attended the Italia Conti stage school in London, said he was delighted to be back on home turf.
He urged pupils to follow their dreams: “Whether you want to own your own business, or be an athlete or a vet or a doctor, if you really focus on something and want it enough, you can achieve it.”
“I moved to London when I was 16 to go to college and the fees were more than double what my parents earned in a year. Luckily I got a scholarship, but with hard work and putting your mind to it, you can achieve what you want to do.
“Your life really does start at school, where you do make decisions for your future which are going to affect the whole of your life and your children’s lives.”
He thanked everyone who backed him to win the show.
“Everyone in Sunderland was so supportive and without the North East, I doubt I would have won,” he said.
Friends and family were among crowds at last night’s sell-out performance to see the pair on-stage alongside former Spice Girl Mel C and ex-Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles.
Michael, 27, from Barnes, said: “They are all so hard-working and it is great to work alongside them. Mel C was my favourite Spice Girl.
“Chris Moyles has come into a world he is not used to, but he is brilliant and so nice.”
Headteacher John Hallworth added: “They have done absolutely fantastic things since Thornhill and we are really honoured and very, very pleased to welcome them back to the stage where they started their careers.”
Music teacher Jackie Bennett, who taught both actors, added: “It makes everything so worthwhile with all the hard work that staff put in.”