AFTER a knockback from ITV talent show Superstar, Inverness singer Martin Bannon thought his prayers had been answered when the team later phoned him out of the blue.
Martin (33) had already played Jesus to rave reviews in last year’s Inverness Starlight Musical Theatre version of Jesus Christ Superstar.
But though he got through two auditions at the Glasgow heat in February, Martin was told by Superstar judge David Grindrod – Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s regular casting director – that his acting skills weren’t up to scratch.
Martin – who sings in local band The Fumes as well as running karaoke and quiz nights – said: "David had said in Glasgow that I had a natural rock voice and it was obvious I had the raw talent.
"But because I came from a rock band background, rather than musical theatre, he felt there was too much of a gap to be able to cover in the time we’d have.
"I came home and got on with my life.
"Then I suddenly got a call asking me if I’d come back."
The show flew Martin to Cardiff to sing again in March.
Martin explained: "David told me someone suggested he’d missed a trick with me before, so it was quite a gruelling audition!
"I sang Bat Out Of Hell and Gethsemane – a song from Jesus Christ Superstar.
"David gave me a lot of feedback and decided I should be among the 104 going to sing in front of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and co in London."
Though there were a couple of glimpses of Martin in the first Superstar on TV last Saturday, sadly his actual audition for the judges didn’t make it into the programme.
But waiting for his moment at Brixton Academy, Martin felt quite at home as he bumped into some old friends.
"After the vocal warm-ups, I recognised Ross – viewers might remember the judges christened him ‘Zoolander’.
"When he came up, I recognised him as one of the early regulars at my Aberdeen karaoke nights!
"Before Starlight had done the Inverness version of Jesus Christ Superstar, some of us had gone over to see a version in Belfast, so I met someone we’d bumped into over there – and the singer who’d played Herod."
But though it was a no from judges David, Jason Donovan, Mel C and Andrew Lloyd-Webber watching in the background – Martin has no regrets.
"I felt happy with how it had gone and though I wasn’t confident about getting through, I was happy I had done my best."
But even without getting through to the finals, it looks as if Jesus Christ Superstar has changed Martin’s life in a couple of ways.
He said: "When I went over to Belfast to see the show, I met my girlfriend Ciara."
But Superstar is also inspiring a big change for Martin.
In one of the musical’s biggest numbers Gethsemane, the line goes: "Then I was inspired."
And that’s exactly what happened to Martin after the auditions.
He explained: "When I came back from London, I thought that if I could get that far, what might I achieve if I put myself in the position of some of those other guys who had a musical theatre background."
So after being accepted for a performance and acting course at UHI, Martin starts at the end of August.
Martin – whose long hair and beard gave him the perfect look for the Jesus role – joked about one regret in not getting further in Superstar.
"When I auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent last year, Amanda Holden was one of the judges and thought I should go for a new look.
"It amused me when I found out Amanda was the presenter for Superstar – I’d have liked to remind her what she’d said if I’d got through!"
Anyone who wants to see Martin in action can catch him twice this weekend in Inverness singing with The Fumes.
He said quite a few people have said to him the band should
learn some Superstar numbers.
"We’re very much a rock group," he laughed. "But it might go down better now that people will hear the songs on TV."
The Fumes' live dates are at www.thefumes.com