“THAT boy is a huge, huge star,” declared Sharon Osbourne after she watched vocal group G4 auditioning on the first series of The X Factor back in 2004.
She was referring to Jonathan Ansell, who promptly burst into tears after the classically trained quartet left the audition room.
“I cried every week of the series,” admits Jonathan, 36, who grew up in Bognor Regis. “Simon Cowell is one of those people you want to get a positive reaction from and it was so exciting to be in front of someone so influential in the music business.
“You feel so vulnerable because it is the ultimate expression of your voice. I found it a very emotional experience.”
G4, at the time consisting of Jonathan, a tenor, baritone Mike Christie, bass singer Matt Stiff and low tenor Ben Thapa, famously came second in the competition behind Steve Brookstein.
But while Steve quickly faded from public view, G4 has gone from strength to strength, despite a seven-year break after the group disbanded in 2007.
Above: The G4 Live Tour 2018
Above: The G4 Christmas Tour 2018. From left: Mike, Lewis, Jonathan and Nick/picture: Arnaud Stephenson
Below: Jonathan Ansell and Rhydian Roberts in Les Musicals
They reformed in 2014 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their stint on The X Factor, and Jonathan and Mike have now been joined by Nick Ashby and Lewis Raines after Matt and Ben left the group, which was named after the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where the original members met.
They are currently on a tour of the UK, when they perform songs including Bohemian Rhapsody, My Way, Nessun Dorma and Creep plus recent tracks from their latest G4 Love Songs album at The Hawth in Crawley on Sunday September 23. They are following that with a Christmas tour, with dates in December including Chichester Cathedral and Arundel Cathedral where the singers will recall the musical experiences of their childhoods singing classics such as When A Child Is Born, Silent Night and All I Want For Christmas.
Both cathedrals will be familiar territory to Jonathan. As a boy, Jonathan sang many times in Arundel Cathedral when he was a member of West Sussex Boys Choir, which toured extensively both here and abroad and performed at the Royal Festival Hall.
“I went to school in Chichester,” recalls Jonathan, “and sang as a choirboy in Chichester Cathedral. It’s always very special coming back to sing in the two cathedrals.”
He adds, “As a boy, I always knew I loved singing but never thought I would become a singer. Singing has always been a big part of my life and when I auditioned for West Sussex Boys Choir, from that point I decided to carry on doing it. I never thought it would be a career though! I was looking at being a chef. My mother is still saying I haven’t had a proper job since I was 18.”
Most of Jonathan’s family still live in Sussex and he moved to Leeds four years ago with his wife, former Quizmania host Debbie King, and their two young children.
Next year, he embarks on another tour, but this one is his first collaboration with Rhydian Roberts, the Welsh singer and fellow star of The X Factor, who came second in the fourth series in 2007.
After meeting at an event in Hyde Park a few years ago and hitting it off, they have got together to plan a live tour of Les Musicals, when they will perform hit songs from the West End and Broadway, including classics from shows such as Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Blood Brothers and West Side Story.
“We thought it would be a great idea to work on this show because there is a real excitement in the genre,” says Jonathan. “There is a real revival of the popularity of musical theatre and I think that’s because there’s such a diverse style of songs in it.
“We are going to really twist things up a bit so we won’t be singing the songs in their traditional forms. There’s a kind of liberation in singing as a duet and we’re going to have a great time. And we’re going to be a bit silly and there’ll be a bit of slapstick. It’ll be really good fun.”
G4 Live are at The Hawth, Hawth Avenue, Crawley, at 7.30pm on Sunday September 23. Tickets £30. Phone 01293 553636 or visit parkwoodtheatres.co.uk.
The G4 Christmas Tour 2018 is at Chichester Cathedral, Chichester, at 7.30pm on Monday December 10. Tickets £17.50-£77.50. Visit g4official.com.
The G4 Christmas Tour 2018 is at Arundel Cathedral, Arundel, at 7.30pm on Monday December 17. Tickets £18.50-£77.50. Visit g4official.com.
Les Musicals with Jonathan Ansell and Rhydian Roberts is at the White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings, at 7.30pm on Thursday May 9. Tickets £25/VIP meet & greet £57.50/Friends £2 off. Phone 01424 462288 or visit whiterocktheatre.org.uk.
Les Musicals with Jonathan Ansell and Rhydian Roberts is at the Theatre Royal, New Road, Brighton, at 7.30pm on Tuesday June 25. Tickets £22.65-£60.15. Phone 0844 871 7650 or visit atgtickets.com.