The Wolverhampton Grand Theatre today announced after much anticipation that the lead role of Jack in this years pantomime will be West End star Ben James-Ellis. Ben completes the all-star cast and joins Loose Women's Sherrie Hewson, Keith Harris with Orville and Cuddles, Coronation Street's Ken Morley, X Factor's Niki Evans and Pantomime legend Nigel Ellacott.
Ben as Link Larkin in the London cast of Hairspray
Ben rose to fame as a contestant on the BBC's Any Dream Will Do in a bid to win the role of Joseph in Andrew Lloyd Webber's revival production of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Finishing in the semi-final stage Ben soon became part of the original London cast of Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre playing the role of teenage heart-throb Link Larkin. Since then, Ben has been in the West End cast and subsequent tour casts of Dreamboats and Petticoats and visited the Grand theatre with the show last year. "There's a really great pork sandwich shop by the theatre, I can't wait to go back there again!"
Ben is no stranger to the world of pantomime having played Prince Charming in Snow White and Peter in Peter Pan, but this is the first time he will be playing Jack. Ben has worked with Keith Harris and Orville in pantomime before and is looking forward to catching up with his little green friend. "Don't touch Orville though, he's expensive. You should see what he sleeps in, it's like a giant protective coffin!".
When asked about the two-show a day schedule of the pantomimes epic run Ben said a blow-up bed for the dressing room and a supply of Red Bull might be necessary. "The dressing rooms are great though, I like that fact that backstage it's really modern and yet the in auditorium keeps the authentic theatre style."
Ben posing for the local press outside the theatre.
If there's one person in theatre that any aspiring young performer would want to work for, it would surely be 'The Lord' himself - Andrew Lloyd Webber. Ben was only 18 when he was plunged into the live shows of Any Dream Will Do, a daunting thing for anyone. "Any Dream Will Do was great, and TV gets you seen, but it's not like it's all plain sailing from there. You have to work really hard to maintain the standard people expect of you." Ben's first job in Hairspray saw him take the stage beside musical theatre legend Michael Ball. "Michael was impressed with the talent on Any Dream Will Do but said to me very early on that this is where it all starts now, I had to prove myself." He sure did prove himself and we're very happy to have Ben in Wolverhampton this Christmas. It is the most excited he has been for pantomime.
Me and Ben with his mighty beanstalk-chopping axe.
The website is currently home to the 'Backstage Blog' which will launch very soon and continue to run long after the pantomime and feature next season's fantastic shows. You can also book tickets to the pantomime through the website.