From Wearside to the West End - Ben Forster on his biggest role to date

Ben with Kimberley Walsh in Elf
Ben with Kimberley Walsh in Elf
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West End superstar Ben Forster will be swapping elf boots for an iconic mask to play his biggest role to date.

The top actor from Millfield, who shot to fame after winning ITV’s Superstar show, has announced he’s to play Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.

He’ll take over one of the most famous roles in theatre from February after completing a West End run as Buddy in Elf the musical, alongside Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh.

The 34-year-old will play the lovable elf over the Christmas period at the Dominion Theatre and will have just a month to transform into the Phantom in time for opening night on February 1 at Her Majesty’s Theatre, where the show has been running for almost thirty years.

Former Thornhill School pupil Ben say it’s a dream come true to play a role which first sparked his love of the stage.

“I remember going on the Blue Chip Travel bus with my mam and aunty from Sunderland to London for the day to see Phantom,” he recalls.

Ben added: “I was about 10 or 11 at the time and I was so taken with the magic of it all, the orchestration, the strings. It’s perfect musical theatre, I was hooked.

“The score, like Music of the Night, captured my attention so much, and now I get to play that role.”

It’s the latest high profile role for Ben who won the nation’s vote in 2012 in Superstar to play the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar.

He went on to tour in a high-octane arena show of the famous musical alongside Spice Girl Mel C, actor and musician Tim Minchin and DJ Chris Moyles.

Ben in Evita

Ben in Evita

Once the tour finished, he played Brad in the Rocky Horror Show tour, and went on to appear in Evita in the West End, before playing Buddy in Elf last Christmas in Dublin.

The latter proved so popular that it’s transferring to the West End this festive season.

“I absolutely love Elf, it’s a massive amount of fun,” he said. “When I first got the call I was worried it might be a bit pantomime, but it’s so cleverly done, it’s a proper musical.

“Buddy’s a big child and it will be strange going from a comedy role to a serious role like the Phantom, but people have been saying Michael Crawford did it when he went from playing Frank Spencer, which is a lovely comparison.

I always keep up to date with what’s going on at the Empire. It has the most amazing shows. People from Millfield, from Thornhill, can walk down the road and see shows that are the same as on the West End stage, the standard doesn’t dip.”

Ben Forster

“I feel proud that Andrew Lloyd Webber (who famously penned the music) wants me to do it and that Cameron Mackintosh (hit producer) sees my potential.”

Ben is one of the youngest actors to play the role of Erik, aka the Phantom, and he says he feels honoured to be donning the famous mask and cape.

“It’s such a big part,” he said. “It’s probably the most established leading man in theatre, I don’t know where I’ll go from there. Playing Jesus at the O2 in London was amazing, but at that point I knew I still had a long way to go.”

Despite top theatre producers knocking at his door, Ben always finds time to come back to Sunderland to stay in his childhood home, just a short walk from the Sunderland Empire.

“I was home just last week,” he said. “And I always keep up to date with what’s going on at the Empire. It has the most amazing shows. People from Millfield, from Thornhill, can walk down the road and see shows that are the same as on the West End stage, the standard doesn’t dip.”

Ben on a return visit to Sunderland Empire

Ben on a return visit to Sunderland Empire

Ben in Jesus Christ Superstar

Ben in Jesus Christ Superstar