Night there was a real boob in the Rocky Horror Show
The English singer thought he'd seen it all when he won the role of Jesus Christ Superstar on live TV... until he began his latest show
Published 30/08/2013 | 01:30
Even by the standards of one of the most outrageous stage shows of all time, the sights which have greeted Ben Forster on tour with the Rocky Horror Show so far have made quite an impression.
"Boobs!" cries the affable Sunderland native at the memory of one particular audience member's reaction to the show. "In one performance the curtain came across and my co-star was staring at me, eyes wide open, and saying 'Look at the front row!' A woman had her boobs out – I mean completely out! I thought 'only in Rocky Horror!'"
Then again, as hardcore followers of the show will know, such audience antics are almost a standard requirement. Since first screaming onto the stage in 1973, the iconic show has attracted its own cult fan following to the extent that audience members routinely dress up in outlandish garb, including stockings and suspenders – and that's just the men!
"Oh, you would feel weird if you didn't dress up," laughs Ben. "It's such fun and the audience embrace it so much, which is kind of the magic of it as well. The audience is an important part of the show for the actors."
Whether the crowd at the Millennium Forum in Londonderry will be following suit when the show touches down there next week remains to be seen, but knowing the city's reputation for hosting a good party, doubtless there will be more than a few excitable fans to watch the 32-year-old take to the stage as loveable protagonist Brad.
"I'm the geek of the piece," explains Ben. "Him and his fiancee Janet live in very stereotypical 1950s America and, like most human beings, just follow the crowd in what's expected of them. They're very young and end up in the middle of a forest in a car that's conked out.
"They go to this castle and get involved in a whirlwind of sexual liberation and find something out about themselves and life. It's a learning curve for them both and probably in the end, makes them better people."
He may be too young to recall the show's beginnings, but the timeless quality of the songs ensured he was intrigued from an early age.
"I grew up hearing it and doing the Time Warp at every party. My house was very close to the Sunderland Empire Theatre and I remember being 11 or 12 and seeing hundreds of people walking there, with men wearing stilettos and feather boas. My mum told me what it was and I knew I wanted to go and see it."
While he would love to take on the role of Frank N Furter, the demented "transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania", it was as another leading character of the West End stage that Ben shot to fame.
Last year he saw off competition from numerous other hopefuls to be crowned as Jesus in the ITV talent show Superstar. Winning the role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical saw him enjoying a level of fame he had only dreamed of in his music career until then.
"I can't imagine a role bigger in the environment I work in than to tour the world in arenas in front of 18,000 people," he says.
"It's weird, it still hits me sometimes," he adds of his reaction to winning the role. "I can have a few days at home and feel normal and then go shopping and someone will say 'Oh, Jesus, can I have your photo, my mum loves Superstar!'."
Like any good northern lad, though, he hasn't let the fame go to his head in any way.
"I was brought up in a working-class environment and worked hard for the career I had before Superstar," he says. "It wasn't just handed to me on a plate. Because of that I do appreciate it and do like earning money and being in work.
"I do see how it's easy to start believing in your hype like some big superstars."