Forster in heaven as Je­sus

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - SHOWS -

SINGING the ti­tle role in the muchloved rock opera Je­sus Christ Su­per­star is a chal­lenge at the best of times.

The pres­sure climbs when its cre­ator, An­drew Lloyd Web­ber, is watch­ing.

Ben Forster found him­self in just that po­si­tion – with the added pres­sure of per­form­ing on live tele­vi­sion in front of mil­lions of peo­ple.

The 32-year-old Brit, a fan of Lloyd Web­ber’s JCS since he was a child, used to lose him­self in the mu­sic and lyrics singing along to his cas­sette copy in his bed­room.

‘‘I got the Je­sus Christ Su­per­star sound­track when I was 12,’’ Forster says.

‘‘I was like this crazy child in my bed­room crying into the mir­ror singing ‘why should I die?’ – my par­ents were prob­a­bly down­stairs go­ing ‘what is he do­ing? What have we cre­ated here’?’’

Forster pur­sued his dream of work­ing in mu­si­cal theatre. Aged 16, he won a schol­ar­ship to the pres­ti­gious Italia Conti Acad­emy and even­tu­ally landed roles in West End mu­si­cals La Cava and All You Need is Love.

He got his break when he au­di­tioned for the UK re­al­ity TV show Su­per­star, de­signed to find the ti­tle role for Lloyd Web­ber’s lav­ish new sta­dium ver­sion of the 43-year-old rock opera.

‘‘It was re­ally in­tense and absolutely ter­ri­fy­ing,’’ he says of the process that cut thou­sands down to just 20 TV con­tes­tants. Lloyd Web­ber was one of the judges. ‘‘Sit­ting in your dress­ing room at the TV show and watch­ing it live – see­ing the pro­gram start while you are sit­ting get­ting ready was just bizarre,’’ Forster says.

‘‘If you for­get your words, or for­get where you are or what cam­era to look at, you could just be­come a YouTube sen­sa­tion overnight for get­ting it wrong. Think­ing back now I don’t know how I did it – how on earth did I get through that process, let alone win? It’s amaz­ing.’’

Aus­tralian au­di­ences are prob­a­bly most fa­mil­iar with JCS from the hit arena ver­sion staged in the 1990s with John Farn­ham in the lead role, Jon Stevens as Ju­das (Aussie Tim Minchin takes the role in this pro­duc­tion) and Kate Ceberano as Mary (Spice Girl Mel C in the lat­est show).

The stag­ing is up­dated with scenes that echo the re­cent Lon­don ri­ots, but the mu­sic is al­most un­changed. Com­poser Lloyd Web­ber wanted the songs per­formed as they were writ­ten.

Je­sus Christ Su­per­star.

‘‘It’s ac­tu­ally the most real ver­sion of the show he has put out be­cause he wanted to do it from what he had writ­ten in his head,’’ Forster says.

Forster, a song­writer and per­former who re­leased an al­bum last year, has no am­bi­tions to fol­low Mel C into the world of pop star­dom. In­deed, he says, both she and Minchin have helped him deal with the pub­lic­ity frenzy that fol­lowed his win on Su­per­star and the re­sult­ing sell­out sta­dium tour of the UK.

‘‘Wher­ever we are and no mat­ter how many thou­sands of peo­ple we have played to, when­ever we get back to our ho­tel, it’s al­ways ‘cut the bull (ex­ple­tive) – let’s have a glass of wine’ and we are just nor­mal peo­ple who have to re­cover for the next day’s show,’’ Forster says.

Je­sus Christ Su­per­star plays the Bris­bane En­ter­tain­ment Cen­tre on June 11,12 and 18.

– JAMES WIGNEY

Ben Forster and Mel C star in

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