X Factor star Rhydian on his role in Little Shop of Horrors

Belfast-bound Rhydian Roberts rose to fame in the 2007 series of The X Factor. Jenny Lee chats to the Welsh singer about his latest musical role, in rock comedy The Little Shop of Horrors

Rhydian Roberts as The Dentist, Orin Scrivello, in The Little Shop of Horrors

WHILE James Nesbitt's portrayal of killer Co Antrim dentist Colin Howell in the ITV series The Secret earlier this year sparked much debate, a fictional crazed dentist takes centre stage in Belfast next week.

Playing the role of The Dentist, Orin Scrivello, in The Little Shop of Horrors is Rhydian Roberts, who rose to fame for his hairstyle and powerful voice in the 2007 series of The X Factor.

A carnivorous plant features in this charming, kooky 1950s musical sci-fi spoof, which tells the story of Seymour Krelborn, the assistant at Mushnik's Flower Shop in downtrodden Skid Row.

He becomes an overnight sensation when he discovers a strange and exotic plant, which he names Audrey Two in order to impress glamorous Audrey, the colleague he's secretly in love with.

Audrey Two quickly starts to wilt, putting Seymour's job and dream future with Audrey at risk. Then, accidentally pricking his finger, he discovers Audrey Two needs a little more than plant food to thrive.

Originally put forward for the role of Seymour (played by Sam Lupton), Rhydian, who has previously starred in Rocky in the Rocky Horror Show and Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar, suggested he was more suited for the "bad guy" role.

"I'm the dentist and the other cameo roles as well. It's great fun, but very busy as I've nine costume changes," said the Welsh singer.

So how would he sum up the character Orin?

"He is a sadomasochist who likes to inflict pain and is addicted to nitrous oxide – laughing gas. He is probably a little bit insecure but has this bravado about him and he mistreats his girlfriend Audrey."

Little Shop of Horrors originally opened off-Broadway in 1982 and in London's West End the following year. In 1986 it was adapted into the now cult film starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin.

While Rhydian has watched the film versions, he admits he "does his own thing" when it comes to portraying his characters.

"I play the role different every night. It's so liberating to play a psycho on stage and do things you couldn't do off stage. They are always the nicest characters to play."

The show features music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, best known for their collaborations on Disney films including the Oscar-winning The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

"Menken's soundtrack is sensational. There is a juxtaposition of happy-sounding music, but the text is actually sinister and dark. That's a theme that runs throughout the whole show," says Rhydian, who also has a successful solo career and was a Classical Brit Award nominee.

His limited-edition CD Carry the Fire, comprised of songs with sporting connotations to tie in with the Olympics, is currently on release; next year he plans to release an album called A New Dawn: The Dark Songs of Broadway.

So has he a few more dark roles on his wish list?

"Phantom [of the Opera] would be a great role for me, and I'd love to play Javert in Les Miserables and Sweeney Todd."

Although he received vocal training at Birmingham Conservatoire, Rhydian is keen to defend the programme which made him famous and admits he is still in touch by text regularly with his on-screen judge Dannii Minogue.

"There is a misconception that previous contestants have disappeared, this is not the case. We can't all be One Direction but many are still working and appearing in West End shows. I've worked solidly for the last nine years."

For the moment Rhydian is thoroughly enjoying being part of The Little Shop of Horrors tour.

"It's my eighth musical and it's my favourite so far."

It hasn't given him nightmares, but after our chat, he admits he was going to make a well-overdue dental check-up appointment.

"The last time I was there was two years ago. I really should go again," he chuckles.

:: Little Shop of Horrors plays Belfast's Grand Opera House from August 30 to September 3.

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