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Preview: Flashdance at Sunderland Empire

Hold on to your dream all you A1 fans!
Ben Adams stars in Flashdance –The Musical


Sunderland Empire

Monday 11th - Saturday 16th September 2017

LONG before he became a pin-up as a member of 90’s boyband pop sensation A1 and was voted ‘Smash Hits Most Fanciable Male’, BenAdams was head chorister at Westminster prep school. By the time his voice broke, he’d toured Europe, recorded two classical albums and sang for, among others, the Queen and the Pope. Fast forward 20 years and things are no less busy for Ben who is starring in his first stage show as Nick, the male lead in Flashdance - The Musical.
Jude Riley talks to Ben about growing up in the public eye, preparing to play Nick and his most embarrassing moment ever on stage.

Did you imagine, when you were growing up, that you’d make a career for yourself in showbiz?
It was all I ever wanted to do. I only ever wanted to be a singer; to be a pop star, an entertainer. And the great thing about that was all the vocal technique training, the discipline and the concerts. It trained me without me knowing it. And thank goodness it worked out because I haven’t ever had any other dream.

Flashdance The Musical -   Photo: Brian Hartley
As a member of A1 and a massive pop star by the time you were 17, do you think you missed out on anything other kids experience and enjoy?
Yeah, I mean I grew up in the public eye really. As soon as I’d done my GCSEs I was launched into this massive world – and it was massive from the get-go. I think I missed out on growing up, if I’m honest. I haven’t actually mentally progressed since I was 16; I’m a 35 year old man with a 16 year old mind! Essentially I do what I like every day. I’ve never had a proper job, no kids, no marriage, so I’ve never had the need to grow up. I think I’ve missed out on growing up but I’ve had a more fun life because of it. 

If you could have a word with him, what would you say to your 17 year old self now?
Flashdance The Musical -   Photo: Brian Hartley
I think I’d say ‘spend more time relaxing and enjoying things as they happen. I think that would be my greatest advice to anyone. Don’t be constantly so ambitious that you’re not appreciating what’s happening now. I remember, with A1, we were at No.2 in the charts and we were so disappointed that we weren’t at No.1 and if we had been, we would have been so stressed at the prospect of not being No.1 the next week. Living in the moment, focusing on and enjoying what’s happening now is still something I have to remind myself of.

Not only did you do a stadium tour with A1 last year but you’re also a successful music producer; your classical album, One Beautiful Mourning, went to No.1 in the itunes charts and you’ve got a solo album coming out soon. On top of that you’ve written a musical, Eugenius! What’s Eugenius! about?
Flashdance The Musical -   Photo: Brian Hartley
Well, I love 80’s music – which is why it’s perfect to be doing Flashdance – and Eugenius! is inspired by that music. It’s about a kid who writes comic books and his comic books come to life. It’s a celebration of just about everything that I love about music theatre matched with the 80s matched with superheroes, so it’s a very exciting project. We’ve had some great people working on it – from Brian Blessed to Warwick Davies to musical theatre royalty on the cast album. It was a sell-out at the London Palladium last year so we’re going to mount it as a full production in London next year. After A1 I went into writing and producing other artists as well as doing my own stuff. So when I’m on tour with Flashdance I’m going to have to bring my studio with me. It’s going to be quite a busy time.
Appearing nightly onstage in a musical can be hard work. How do you warm up before a show?
Flashdance The Musical -   Photo: Brian Hartley
Do you know I don’t actually warm up before a show. I think I’m one of the only people that doesn’t. I actually find a warm up exhausts me before I’ve gone on. I’ve been performing for so many years now I feel quite relaxed. I make sure I’m ready, obviously, before I go on but I just chill out and make sure I’m not stressed so that I can go out and give my all when I’m on stage.

How do you make your dressing room your ‘home from home’ when you’re on tour?
This will be the first musical theatre tour that I’ve done so I don’t know yet. In the pop world you can put whatever you want on the rider and a lovely person from the production team goes out and decorates your room how you want it, gets you whatever it is you want… I don’t think it’s going to be quite the same. I’ve been sweet-talking some of the staff but I still don’t think it’s going to go my way! I’ll probably put my Playstation in there, some music but I’ll probably spend as little time as possible in there. Go in, do the show, go out and meet people at the stage door and then go home.

What has been your most embarrassing moment onstage?
Flashdance The Musical -   Photo: Brian Hartley
Gosh, my most embarrassing moment… well, there’s a whole host of stuff to choose from! It’s always quite embarrassing when you can’t remember the lyrics to your own song but in a lot of cases, it’s always quite useful when you’re doing pop concerts. Then you just point the mic at the audience and they’ll sing the song for you. I don’t think there’ll be any of that this time so I’ll have to brush up on all the lyrics before I go on. I think that my most embarrassing moment was at my band mate, Christian’s, 30th birthday party in Norway. We hadn’t seen each other, the A1 guys, for quite a long time, and we got so drunk. Then at 2am he decided it was a great idea to get up on stage and play a couple of A1 songs and I said ‘Mate, I really cannot do this, I’m so drunk’ and he said ‘of course you can!’ Anyway, I’m standing on the stage and I was thinking, ‘ooh gosh, standing up’s quite tricky’ so what I’ll do is lean against this wall behind me while the other guys are singing their bits. And it actually wasn’t a wall, it was just a black curtain. I went through the curtain, knocked over his dad’s guitar, smashed that and spilt drinks everywhere. And the worst thing was it was just friends and all his family there. To be honest, I did warn him. I did say it was a bad idea but he insisted so I don’t feel too bad but hopefully I won’t be doing that again!
What makes you nervous, generally speaking?
Do you know what, I actually don’t get nervous. I can’t remember the last time I was nervous. It’s absolutely fine performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people but the thing I hate the most is when I have small family gatherings like when my mum asks me to play the piano and sing for my family. I absolutely hate that, I go red and I can’t bear it. It’s the worst thing I can think of. And the other thing is that I did Strictly Come Dancing over in Norway and I got to the final. Now, at weddings, everybody says ‘Come on Ben, do a bit of dancing!’ and I’m like, ‘I really can’t!!’ I only know that particular routine with that particular dance partner for that particular song. So yeah, anything with small numbers of people and family members, I shy away from.

Flashdance The Musical -   Photo: Brian Hartley
You are very well-known in Scandinavia and apart from Strictly in Norway you were a MasterChef contestant in Denmark. What dish did you cook and was it good?
I’m the worst cook there is in Denmark. I didn’t even pack a suitcase when I went over there for the show. I just took a backpack because I was so sure that I’d be coming back on my first day. But I think it was quite unfair because they put this Danish dish in front of me and said you’ve got to make this. And I’d never seen it or heard of it, all of the ingredients were in a foreign language and I just made a massive mess. This is how bad I am at cooking; they said ‘you need to make whipped cream’. Well I didn’t know how to do that but I did remember being told that if you want to make a sauce thicker, you put flour in it. So I thought, brilliant, I know what to do: single cream, excellent, I’ll put loads of flour in it and mix it around! And of course it tasted disgusting and made a massive mess and after that, I left the show. I am a really, really bad cook

What’s your favourite food?
This is really boring; it’s really generic boring American burgers.

What are you looking forward to about playing the part of Nick?
It’s a great part, he’s the leading man, he’s got some great, well-known songs like Maniac and What a Feeling and I Love Rock and Roll, but I get to sing some really amazing original more Musical Theatre type songs and a lot of ballads so I’m really looking forward to that. It’s not actually that tricky for me to play this part because he isn’t that far away from my own personality. I think of him like an American version of me that owns a steel works factory – well, that’s a challenge, imagining owning a steel works factory - but apart from that I’m just playing myself.

Flashdance The Musical -   Photo: Brian Hartley
How’s the American accent going?
It’s fine. I watch as much American TV as the next person and I’ve spent a lot of time in America. The accent I have is very generic but I had a tutor teaching me how to pronounce some words that Americans say and it’s more difficult than you think because they use different parts of their mouths on certain letters, like the ‘l’s and ‘r’s. I’ve been driving my family mad talking in an accent. They say ‘Can you just be Ben now?’ and I say, ‘no, I can’t’ but it’s fun.

Can you describe the show in three words?
It is: energetic, sexy and fun. I’d go and see that show!

And finally, do you get to dance in Flashdance?
It’s quite sad really, there aren’t any routines for me whatsoever. This is a really dance heavy show but I don’t get to do any routines at all. I love dancing ever since I did the Strictly Come Dancing thing and my new album is quite dance-orientated. But I guess I’ll just have to save my dancing for the after parties.


Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or online from our affiliate ATG Tickets using the banner below *calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

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