THE Best of Wham! featuring the very best of George, Andrew, Pepsi and Shirlie is coming to Darlington Hippodrome later this year. It’s 37 years since George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley formed one of the most enduring pop groups of the 80s. In four years Wham! sold more than 28m records, topping the charts with three albums, four number one singles and 11 top ten hits.

They featured in the Live Aid concert of 1985 and were the first western pop group to ever tour in China. The Best of Wham! Show includes all those hits, a few B side favourites and a couple of early George Michael bonus songs.

This brand new concert show stars Ben Evans, performing as George Michael. Ben started his career at the age of eight performing in roles including Gavroche in Les Miserables, both the roles of Oliver and The Artful Dodger in Oliver!

His career has continued with appearances in a host of TV programmes including lead roles in Casualty, Teachers, and Waking The Dead. We caught up with Ben

Why was the Best of Wham! show put together?

To celebrate the life and music of George Michael and Wham! We wanted to show George in his prime years and celebrate his beginnings with Wham! Four friends who shook up the music industry and broke millions of hearts all over the world. It’s been just over 30 years since Wham performed their final concert together at Wembley and it’s been way too long to be away from their amazing fans so we hope to bring that feeling back to everyone.

The Northern Echo:

How did you end up being part of the show?

Being a performer, you have to audition for roles and my agent was contacted to see if I’d like to go in to audition and meet the team. Luckily, being a massive Wham! and George Michael fan I already knew all of the material and thankfully I was chosen to take on the role of George!

When did you first get involved with the show?

I started rehearsals for The Best Of Wham! in June 2018, but my mother would tell you that I’ve been preparing for this role all my life! During rehearsals my biggest aim was to get the instantly recognisable physicality and moves of George, obviously Wham had their trademark dance routines. I thought I’d hung up my dancing shoes a long time ago!

Did you ever see George Michael live, and if so, how did it compare to your concerts?

Yes! My sister and I were lucky enough to see George live at Wembley on his Freedom 25 Tour. It was an incredible night that I didn’t want to end. In fact, we thought it might not end as he sang Freedom ‘90 three times as they were filming for the DVD! Our Best Of Wham concerts try to capture the incredible live vocals as well as the fun and high energy performances of George and Andrew. We perform all the biggest and best hits of Wham, a few George solo songs whilst paying tribute to the man himself.

What is your role in the show?

I play the one and only George Michael, a part I’ve been dreaming of playing since I was a little boy. It is an honour to sing his songs every night.

What preparation do you need to do to get ready for each performance?

I always listen to either a Wham! or George Michael playlist before I go on stage and obviously getting my beard length right is an absolute must! With the demands of the concert I make sure to do a vocal and physical warm up. We soundcheck with the amazing live band who tour with us and I have to make sure I’m fully hydrated before the show.

What is your favourite Wham! track to perform?

I know it sounds corny but they’re all such amazing songs and the reaction from the crowd for each and every one of them is incredible and never fails to blow me away! But if I had to choose, I would have to say ‘Edge Of Heaven’, it’s such a crowd pleaser with a great bit of audience participation.

What can an audience expect from attending The best of Wham!?

An evening of nostalgia where they’ll be transported back to the glory days of the 1980s. Expect to be singing, dancing and clapping your hands from the very first song to the last. It’s such an incredible, feel good show you won’t be disappointed!

What do you enjoy most about the performances?

Getting to play my hero, George Michael, every night! At certain points during the show I can feel that he’s there with me, hopefully I’m doing him proud. The audience reactions are also something that I’ll never get over and getting to meet everyone after the show is something really special.

What has been the highlight of the tour so far?

There are too many to mention! But performing to 10,000 people at Rewind festival has to be one of the best experiences of my life. Also, topping the bill with Jason Donovan and Chesney Hawkes on the Throwback to The 80s, Floating Festivals Cruise was a once in a lifetime moment.

The Best of Wham! Darlington Hippodrome, Sunday, September 1, 7.30pm. Box Office: 01325 405405