THAT ‘double-edged sword’ phrase always seems to crop up whenever an X Factor graduate discusses their reality TV past.
And it’s something that very much applies to Rhydian Roberts – the Welsh singer with a voice as distinctive as his flash of blond hair.
He stood out from the prime-time pack to become something of a black sheep of X Factor 2007, a bit of a bad boy who shook up the template.
“That show’s very well edited,” Rhydian recalls. “The producers know exactly what they’re doing and I guess they made me a focal point which as an artist isn’t a bad thing.
“All publicity is good publicity. However, the image is very much driven by me. I never wanted to be a boring classical singer. I’ve got role models like David Bowie and I had Dannii Minogue as a mentor. She doesn’t do boring.
“So it was a good blend and worked well. Simon Cowell maybe made me a bit boring in the later rounds, but he was thinking about record contracts then. The fun stopped after week eight. But an audience likes to be entertained and hopefully I was one of the more memorable ones that year.”
Certainly Rhydian has stuck in the minds of casting directors to land some prime roles either side of the music-making that follow X Factor.
He’s added colour and tonsils to the likes of We Will Rock You and was last in Sheffield playing The Parson in the omni-present touring show War Of The Worlds.
Monday sees him reprising the role of Teen Angel in a tour of Grease.
“You’ve still got to go and sing for them and hit the notes,” says Rhydian, denying his profile means he strolls into roles. “And Teen Angel is pretty rangey, but I’ve done the training – I studied for six years before X Factor.
“People in the know get that and understand I can turn it in when it comes to it. Having a profile obviously helps because it’s about audiences relating to something over and above the brand Grease. It has been touring for a long time so they always try and keep it fresh and sweet by getting new people in.
“The lead is played by Danny Bayne who won Grease Is The Word four or five years ago. He’s good. It’s a very strong cast and I’m honoured they think I can compete and be on the same playing field as these talented West End stars.
“X Factor isn’t difficult compared to eight shows a week, let’s put it like that, but it’s definitely a good platform and gets people to hear you and see what you can do.
“I like variety and I like to work as long as it’s good work and is part of who I am as a performer.
“Theatre’s always been a big part of my life and a passion of mine so it’s nice to do it around my solo stuff.
“It’s definitely been varied and how I like it. Building up a body of work is important especially for a performer coming from a TV show as I did – I don’t just want to be a flash in the pan. I was never a huge star after that show and I didn’t expect to be.
“It was all about setting up a profile and grafting from there.
“For an artist like me who is classical crossover and theatre, I never expected a pop career.
“The career I’ve carved out is exactly the one I wanted and anything extra is a bonus, like recording albums. And my albums have done pretty well considering.”
The original high energy high school musical is back in town
FRANKIE Avalon played Teen Angel in the classic 1978 film of Grease – the original high school musical love story brimming with slick hairstyles, rock ‘n’ roll and a vibrant mix of teenage angst and young romance.
It was made and released before Rhydian was even born, but as the West End hit tours for the first time in five years, the Welshman says he’ll be bringing something different to the role.
“It’s always good to have a look at the film to get your over-view, but my number is different from the film,” says Rhydian.
“It’s bigger and has been added to. As a touring production it’s better, I would say, so you can’t copy what Frankie does and I wouldn’t want to. He made it famous, but the great thing about that role is you’re free to do more or less what you want.
“It just has to be really over the top and flamboyant. That’s probably why they asked me to do it. David Ian, a renowned producer, got in touch and I thought ‘it’s good fun’. It’s not that taxing, Teen Angel is a bit of a cameo role, and I have one song to sing which is Beauty School Drop-Out, working with a great cast again.”
While Danny Bayne stars as the slick Danny Zuko, in the part made famous by John Travolta, alongside Carina Gillespie as his preppy sweetheart Sandy, the cast also includes locally born and bred actor Josh Dever.
He makes his professional acting debut after graduating from the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, to play a T-Bird.
Former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips choreographs a high energy show that includes signature songs You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sandy and Greased Lightnin’.
“It will cheer you up. Ultimately everybody knows the songs. It’s a story people can relate to – childhood sweethearts and college love – it’s a family show,” says Rhydian, who called former War of The Worlds colleague Jason Donovan before becoming Teen Angel.
“He is one of my best friends, a role model in many ways because he can cover all the genres and he’s done it well.
“He’s been a soap star, a pop star, been a theatre and reality TV star and he’s overcome drug addiction.
“I learn a lot from Jason so I rang him up before I did Grease and he said ‘Do it, you’ll have a laugh’. And he’s absolutely right.”
That said, Rhydian has no plans to follow the Aussie in his Strictly direction.
“Most of the dancing action happens around me,” concludes the Welshman, “but I pull a few shapes.”
Tickets, priced £22-£35, from the box office, or via 0114 249 6000 and sheffieldtheatres.co.uk