FANS of ’90s boy band A1 could be in for an extra treat if they go along to see Ben Adams star as Aladdin in this year’s big Woking panto.
He says his fellow band members will be visiting the New Victoria Theatre to watch, so you may be sitting next to a pop idol.
“Of course, they’ll be coming along,” says Ben. “I’d be offended if they didn’t! Mark [Read] especially is a big panto fan, he sees one every year whether there’s a member of A1 in it or not, so he’ll be there!”
The band first hit the charts back in 1999 with their debut single, Be The First To Believe, but have enjoyed a resurgence recently after joining Eternal, Damage, 3T and others on the ITV2 show The Big Reunion.
But Ascot-born Ben says he feels a bit of a fraud being on the reunion trail as the band actually reformed in 2009 and have had two successful albums, Waiting For Daylight and Rediscovered – just not at home.
“We’ve done two studio albums with Universal Music but released them in the rest of the world, not the UK,” he explains. “We gave a lot away during the Big Reunion Tour that we’ve just done and will then look to release an album here next year.”
He says A1 got back together after one of the members, Christian Ingebrigtsen from Oslo, got requests for the band to play in Norway. “We hadn’t been together for 10 years but he called me and said a TV show wanted us to perform,” says Ben.
“We did it and the reaction was so great that we did a gig which sold out followed by a few more, and then we did the albums for Universal which went down well.”
The singer has since appeared on Norway’s version of Strictly Come Dancing and says: “When we did The Big Reunion we’d actually been back together for four years with all the stuff stemming from Norway.
“For The Big Reunion Tour we had to do four songs and it was back to doing the old hits and dance routines so it was as if we were taking 10 steps back to start again.
“It was like we were 16 again which has been strange to be honest, but it’s good to reconnect with the old faces that used to follow the band around. I’m only 32 so it feels odd to be in the retro category!”
Because of A1’s revival, Ben hasn’t appeared in panto for three years but he’s looking forward to getting back in the swing of a festive show – especially as the main character, Aladdin.
“I was Prince Charming in Cinderella last time up in Milton Keynes,” he says. “He only has a couple scenes and then disappears, but Aladdin gets a bit more to do.”
Ben admits he doesn’t have a lot of pantomime experience – but is definitely a convert to its Yuletide charms. “I’d never seen a panto before being in one so I didn’t know what to expect,” he reveals. “We never went as a family but now I’ve introduced them all to it.
“Christmas is my favourite time of year and I’m going to be able to go home to north London during the run, which is perfect for me. Pantomime is just so Christmassy and it’s special to be part of that. And as the New Victoria Theatre is part of a shopping centre, I’ll be able to get my shopping done, too!”
He even prefers aspects of panto to performing with A1, explaining: “What’s nice about theatre is that I’m not touring around. Staying in one venue means you can unpack all your stuff and make it a home from home.
“But performing in theatre has taken a bit of getting used to because you can often hear a penny drop. At the concerts there is constant noise from beginning to end.”
He’s also looking forward to the panto interaction with the crowd, although he’s hoping it won’t be quite as wild as his Milton Keynes experience. “Last time I had some friends along who’d drunk a bit too much,” he says, wincing.
“They were shouting out stuff at the wrong time, ‘Go on give her a kiss, Prince Charming’, and all that kind of rubbish, so I’ll be making sure my friends are sober this time around.
“The interaction is great though, and because the jokes are for everyone it’s amazing to have a real mixture of people watching.”
BEN ADAMS will star as Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking, until Saturday, January 10.