Forster in heaven as Jesus
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