Sunderland’s own West End star Ben Forster is in London spreading Christmas cheer for all to hear.
The actor, from Millfield, is starring in Elf The Musical at the Dominion Theatre alongside Girls Aloud singer Kimberley Walsh.
The show opened on October 24 and runs over the festive period until January 2, next year.
The musical is based on the 2003 Christmas film Elf, which stars Will Ferrell as one of Santa’s elves who learns his true identity as a human and travels to New York City to track down his biological father.
Ben is playing the lead role of Buddy.
The 34-year-old shot to stardom when he won the nation’s vote in 2012 Superstar, a TV talent show which saw Andrew Lloyd Webber searching for a star for his production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
He went on to tour in an arena show of the famous musical alongside Spice Girl Mel C, actor and musician Tim Minchin and DJ Chris Moyles.
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 festive show proved so popular that it has transferred to London this Christmas.
And after the run is done, Ben will be transferring to Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End to take on the role of the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera from February 1.
Ben, a former Thornhill School pupil, said: “I absolutely love Elf, it’s a massive amount of fun. 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.”
l Reporter Vicki Newman is in London tonight to review Elf The Musical.
See Thursday’s paper and online at www.sunderlandecho.com for our verdict on Ben’s performance in the festive show.