It’s difficult not to feel envious of Ben Heathcote.
His life has gone swimmingly, a regular in the world of West End theatre and TV since leaving Blackpool at the age of 20, as well as singer in a successful band.
“Things just seem to have fallen for me so far, a case of being in the right place at the right time I think,” the St Annes lad says. “But don’t get me wrong, it’s not all great – I have just had what you’d call a quiet year.”
Turns out that quiet year involved a leading part in a major BBC 3 comedy and two major adverts.
But there’s no way you could begrudge the 35-year-old his success because he seems a very nice bloke.
Yet Ben, about to return to his theatre roots to appear as the lead in Tonight’s The Night at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, didn’t always dream of becoming an actor.
He would probably have preferred to be on the footie pitch.
While at St Bedes in Lytham – a school which has also produced actors like Stephen Tompkinson and Sean McKenzie (in smash-hit play War Horse) – Heathcote was just as keen on lacing up his boots as he was treading the boards.
“We had a brilliant teacher called Jeffrey Lynam, who sadly passed away last year, and he made me love acting. But I was also mad keen on football as well,” said Ben.
“I was playing three times a week, Saturday and Sundays, and a five-a-side league, and it was becoming a bit of a problem fitting it all in.
“Then I badly twisted my ankle and it really affected my acting because it made me realise how physically fit you have to be in this industry. So I gave up the footie. It was hard, though looking back I suppose I made the right choice.”
Ben, who grew up on Moorland Road in St Annes where his parents Ashton and Patsy still live, did a performing arts course at Blackpool and The Fylde College and within a few weeks landed a role in a show which toured Europe.
“I was lucky with that,” he said. “I shared a flat with a mate of mine and he’d been offered a cruise-ship or a tour in a show called Best of Broadway. He couldn’t do both, so he recommended me for the show and luckily I fitted the bill.”
He was 20 at that point, and met a fellow actress on that tour called Danielle. They’re now married with children, Elijah, five, and two-year-old Ruthie.
Ben has been in Bill Kenwright’s Thank You For The Music, The Three Musketeers musical and spent four years in Mamma Mia. On TV he has appeared in Peak Practice, Truckers and last year filmed BBC 3 series Way To Go. The rest of the time he is gigging with his own band.
And there’s no let up, for next is a part in Rod Stewart musical Tonight’s The Night. Written by Ben Elton, it opens at the Palace Theatre in Manchester next Monday.
“It’s quite a big thing for me because it’s the first tour I’ll have done since 2003, so being away from the children for the first time will be odd,” he said. “On the upside it gives me chance to get back towards Blackpool for a bit. In fact my mum has got a coachload of family and friends coming to one of the shows in Manchester, which should make it interesting.”
n Tonight’s The Night is at Manchester’s Palace Theatre from January 20. Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/manchester or 0844 871 3019.