Preview: Dreamboats And Petticoats, Edinburgh Playhouse

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SIMON COWELL, if you’re reading this, Ben James-Ellis has an ambition you could help him fulfil - he’d like to present The X Factor.

“I want to get more into my TV presenting. Something like The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. As long as there is talent involved. I think I’d have a good eye for that sort of thing,” reveals the 22-year-old, who stars in Dreamboats And Petticoats, at the Edinburgh Playhouse, next week.

Of course, the Scarborough-born performer is no stranger to reality TV, having first come to the public’s attention in the BBC star search Any Dream Will Do. He came fourth, not that being a runner-up has done him any harm.

“I think right from the beginning we always knew that Lee Mead was the favourite to win. So for the rest of us it was really a case of ‘when is it our turn to be out?’ In that sense, it kind of took the pressure off,” he says, of being beaten to the title role in Bill Kenwright and

Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s West End production of Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Any Dream Will Do wasn’t James-Ellis’ first taste of performing however. As a child he attended the Italia Conti Academy of Performing Arts and was later a member of the Scarborough YMCA Theatre. Still, he admits that without the exposure the TV show brought, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

And while it might have been all of four years ago, he remains proud of the part it played in his career.

“Any Dream Will Do did me the world of good. It got me on the radar of people who, normally, it would take years and years of hard work to get noticed by.

“In that sense it was amazing and allowed me to go straight into Hairspray, the biggest show on the West End at the time. But it was a hard slog. Being thrust into the TV world and put under such scrutiny when you are that young was quite difficult to deal with at first.

“But it was an enjoyable experience because of the things we got to do and the people we got to meet.

“What I have accomplished since has made it all worth while and I would never palm it off as anything bad. It’s allowed me to be where I always wanted to be. In such a tough business, where a lot of great people don’t make it, that something special.”

Those TV appearances not only led to his West End debut as Link Larkin in Hairspray, but also allowed him to notch up guest appearances on Channel 4’s Friday Night Project, The Paul O’Grady Show, Ready Steady Cook and Noels HQ for Sky 1.

Dreamboats And Petticoats, meanwhile, finds James-Ellis embarking on his first musical theatre tour.

“Because he was a judge on the Joseph programme, I know Bill Kenwright quite well, so when the auditions for this came up he contacted me.

“I didn’t really know the show but as soon as I went to see it I just fell in love with it - it’s rock ‘n’ roll and it’s hi-nrg which is exactly what I love.”

James-Ellis plays Norman, the hero of the piece.

It’s 1961 and emotions are running high as talented young musicians Norman and Bobby compete to win the hearts of their adoring female fans - and more importantly the gorgeous Laura.

But when Laura shows that she is no slouch with a guitar, rock and roll fame beckons.

Described as ‘the ultimate rock and roll musical,’ the piece features the music Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury and more.

“I always prefer to see a show on tour because I find the audiences are always much more up for it,” says James-Ellis.

You could do worse than take his advice.

Dreamboats And Petticoats, Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, Monday-Saturday, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £12-£34.50, 0844-871 3014