The much-loved and hilarious Buddy will be played by Ben Forster off of the ITV1 show Superstar, and of West End ‘leading man’ fame. He will be reprising the role from which he originated during its premiere in 2014 and a record-breaking 2015 Christmas run in the West End. Not bad for a real life Billy Elliot (Forster hails from Sunderland).
To get ready for this much anticipated musical, Hamley’s in the intu Trafford Centre hosted a festive launch, in which we were treated to a performance of Ben’s powerful vocals in a very popular number from the show; ‘World’s Greatest Dad’. Not to mention rubbing shoulders with the absolutely delightful Liz McClarnon, as we better know her as one third of Atomic Kitten.
As well as a Q & A with the main characters and director Morgan Young, press and their children were invited to take part in demonstrations across the toy shop, including bauble making. It truly felt like stepping in to a modern remake of ‘Big’.
It’s quite possible to misconstrue the musical as being cheesy or reaching pantomime levels without having actually watched it, but Ben ensured that Elf The Musical is far from sacharine.
He said: “My first initial thought when I was first offered the role was of, ‘Oh god, it’s going to be an awful sort of pantomime version of Elf and I’m going to be standing there singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen.’ Then I realised from the musical score that it’s an incredible show. It’s unbelievable, there are really great big-band parts done by a 16-piece orchestra, so it’s really classy and beautiful.”
Taking on quite a modern iconic role must surely be nerve-wrecking, as it’s only natural that we will forever associate Will Ferrell with the character of Buddy. Ben, however, is confident in his ability to make the part entirely his own.
He said: “It was quite scary at first and I thought that I have to try and give a version of what everybody loves about Will Ferrell. The pressure to make 2,000 people laugh and deliver all those one liners that are so famous that people have already laughed at a hundred times, the pressure to deliver is quite a difficult thing, but as soon as we got in front of a crowd, the audience were so welcoming.”
“It’s such an amazing show, it’s been in people’s lives already for years and it’s a firm Christmas classic, so it did fill me with dread to live up to Will Ferrell’s performance, but now it’s actually something I love about the show.”
Surely any excuse to watch Elf over again to take some pointers would be on any leading man’s agenda when gearing up to play quite a big part? Ben doesn’t agree, and in fact has steered clear so that he doesn’t in any way imitate Ferrell:
“It’s really important for me not to do an impression of Will, I don’t think it would be the right thing to do. I don’t want people to watch and think he’s doing a good impression that isn’t as heart-warming or fun or that people couldn’t connect with me. I just wouldn’t be as good as Will Ferrell being Will Ferrell. I really just had to look at it as a part that I had to act and take the honesty from the role as though it was my everyday life.”
It’s safe to say that Liz cannot wait to take on the role of Jovie, but she may find it difficult to suppress her Christmas cheer in the earlier parts of the show whereby Jovie is non-plussed by the whole farce. Hell, it’s only September and Liz was already bursting with excitement.
“I am so looking forward to this. I am obsessed with Christmas! If I could do Christmas in April I would. As soon as I’ve got my birthday out the way, then I’ll move on to Christmas, forget everyone else’s birthday [laughs].”
Her singing abilities obviously aren’t in question either. We’ve all spent many a night reciting ‘Whole Again’, haven’t we? Even the one and only Robin Gibb produced her powerful and emotional cover of Barbara Streisand’s ‘Woman In Love!’ Yet, what of her dancing ability? The role taken on from Kimberley Walsh’s impressive performance in the West End might be a tough one to beat, but Liz is keeping positive about the whole thing.
She said: “Between you and I, I’m not the best at tap [laughs]. It’s not my fault, my tap teacher hated me! It’s fine though, I danced at school, so I’m fine with all of that and I’ll pick it up. I definitely don’t have any grades in tap, I will say.”
“I did a show last year called SHOUT and we had to do a bit of tap in that, but I got through it because I went away and did it again and again and again. That’s just me though, I won’t be bad at something, I will go and learn it and just annoy everyone around me and make sure I know it, because I’m not very good, so then I’ll be better at it than anything else.”
Elf The Musical promises to be nothing short of spectacular with a lot of ‘wow moments’. The show will have its first Christmas season outside of London running from Friday 24th November 2017 – Sunday 14th January 2018 at The Lowry Theatre.
The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ
0843 208 6000