INTERVIEW: Ben Forster Talks ELF: THE MUSICAL

Ben Forster as Buddy in ELF THE MUSICAL

Ben Forster chats to Frankly My Dear UK about reprising his role as Buddy in ELF: THE MUSICAL

It’s fair to say that ELF: THE MUSICAL’s first Christmas Season outside of London has been a success. Alongside our five star review, ELF: THE MUSICAL has been given glowing reviews by Manchester Evening News, Northern Soul and Opening Night to name but a few, with Ben Forster’s performance as Buddy standing out in particular.

Based on the 2003 hit movie starring Will Ferrell, ELF: THE MUSICAL tells the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities force him to embark on a journey to New York City to find his birth father and discover his true identity.

For its seven week run at Salford’s The Lowry, West End star and ITV ‘Superstar’ winner Ben Forster reprises his role as Buddy the Elf, a role which he originated in the UK premiere in 2014 in Plymouth and continued to perform throughout the record-breaking 2015 Christmas run in the West End. But how hard is it to bring the character of Buddy to life? Frankly My Dear UK caught up with Forster to find out…

Frankly My Dear UK (FMD): Are you happy to be reprising the role of Buddy?

Ben Forster (BF): Oh my God, yes. There’s a lot of times in your career where you have to be behind the show and say ‘come and see us, it’s a great show’ and I can honestly say I don’t have to sell it. The kids are going to feel the magic. To be part of a show like that is a gift because you know at the end of the show when the real magic happens and you can hear the kids’ reactions and the parents’ reactions, it literally gives me goosebumps, I can’t even say my final speech. The moral of the story is that Christmas for most people is about being back with the people that you love. Whether or not you’re from New Zealand, Australia or the UK, people travel the length and breadth of the world to get back to the important people. There is no other night in the year where it’s that important.

Ben Forster as Buddy in ELF THE MUSICAL

FMD: Have you got a favourite scene in the show?

BF: When the show starts, there is a moment where I arrive on my iceberg and I love it. When my alarm clock goes off, you can hear everybody gasp and it’s just so exciting. Also, at the end when something amazing happens, I don’t want to spoil it for people but you see something incredible, even when I’m in the wing and I know how it all works, I still gasp. When you see Santa’s sleigh, there’s something magical about that and it’s hearing the reactions, that’s the thing.

FMD: How do you bring the character of Buddy to life?

BF: I do sort of relate to Buddy and I think there is part of Buddy in everybody. Everyone wants to be a big kid, even if you don’t portray it on the outside. Everyone that just wants to let loose and not feel any part of being body conscious. That’s the thing with Buddy, it would have been really easy for me to feel a bit silly and when I first got the part and we went into rehearsals, I was unsure how to approach the part. It’s hard to make people laugh and with Buddy, all those jokes you’ve heard before, you’ve heard every joke, you’ve seen the movie, you know what is coming, so to deliver a punchline is really hard. So how do I do this without looking like a complete loser or like I’m doing an impression of Will [Ferrell]? I just had to step back and look. If you take a 30-year-old man who really had grown up with elves in the North Pole, didn’t know anything about normal life apart from this little magical Emporium that he lived in, then you launch him into the middle of the city, it is hysterical. I just couldn’t do a Will impression. It would be the wrong thing.

FMD: Does it help to put on the costume?

BF: Oh yes 100%, with anything actually. I did Brad in Rocky Horror and I just couldn’t get the geeky thing until I got my glasses and it’s like suddenly I am this person. There is something about when you’ve got your little twirly shoes on and your hat, you become Buddy.

FMD: It must be quite an exhausting role to play because you have to be very enthusiastic and happy all the time? How do you keep the energy high night after night?

BF: It’s just the pressure to deliver. As an actor, I think you really have got that pressure with a live performance because people have travelled from all over to see you. I’ve got fans coming from Japan who are booked in for Manchester so imagine if I just felt tired one day and I wasn’t really like giving it? I would never not be able to do that, it would feel like I was cheating people and I wouldn’t enjoy the show. I can only enjoy it if I feel like everybody else is enjoying it.

FMD: Is there another role you’ve done in the past that you like to reprieve?

BF: I would never say no to Jesus Christ Superstar in the right production with the right Producer. I would also like to play Jean Valjean in Les Misérables at some point in my career. I really want someone to put Little Shop of Horrors back on. I did it at school and I’m still obsessed with it. If I’m bored in the house I’ll put the opening of Little Shop of Horrors on, I just love it.

ELF: THE MUSICAL runs at The Lowry until 14 January 2018.

About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1