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Benidorm is incredibly popular with British holidaymakers – so much so it’s earned the nickname "Blackpool in the sun". You can get everything from an 88p pint to extreme stag dos and, of course, stunning beaches.
In fact, some Brits love Benidorm, in Spain, so much that they choose to live and work there. While many are attracted to the cheaper housing and cost-of-living others do it for the weather and happy tourists.
We spoke to Ben Alexander, 31, from Rhyl, Wales, who made the move to work in Benidorm as a Neil Diamond and Gary Barlow impersonator – and says it all started for a "wild and unusual" reason.
READ MORE: 'I ditched the UK for country with 88p pints, sun, cheap rent and extreme strippers'
Ben had been in the music industry since he started working and signed with a top management company under the name Kameelion where he released several songs and even worked with Lily Allen. But, when he was 20 inspiration struck.
The impersonator posts about his life on Benidorm’s stages on Facebook at Ben Alexander as Neil Diamond and has even appeared on Bargain loving Brits and Stars in their Eyes. Now he lives in Benidorm with his girlfriend where he performs almost every night.
He explained: "The Neil Diamond thing started when I was around 20 and I watched the film 'The Jazz Singer' — and I loved the song 'Hello Again' from the movie. I’ve always had a good talent of impersonating people, especially mannerisms and accents.
"I managed to work out and study how he sings and his unique tone and a lot of people were saying even at 22, my voice sounded just like his. The Benidorm story is pretty wild and unusual — it was all on a bit of a whim and prayer."
Ben revealed that he was initially taken on by an agent to impersonate Gary Barlow in a Take That tribute band. But, after months of practice he was told that the gig was off.
He commented: "No apology, no explanation, no anything. So we decided to swallow the pill and take a one way ticket to Benidorm and see if we could get work — we arrived with no accommodation and even slept on the beach on the first night — until the opportunities started to develop — and the rest is history really. I’ve been involved in the Take That show as Gary Barlow ever since.
"Amazingly, even though I had been on ‘Stars in their Eyes’ as Neil Diamond — I never actually came here with the intention of doing a tribute to him, as the Take That show was taking up all my time. It was actually during the pandemic, when I thought to myself that I have the time to prepare a new show and get the costume, the backing tracks and get everything together and come back after the pandemic with a brand new show."
Now, Ben is the youngest Neil Diamond impersonator, he thinks, in Europe. He works six nights a week and often performs three shows a night!
He explained: "I have my Neil Diamond show early on around 8pm and 9pm, and the Take That show later in the evening." Thankfully, his act is very popular – especially with Brits.
Ben noted: "My show attracts a lot of British people, anyone from around 40 years of age onwards. The sort of people who would’ve listened to Neil Diamond’s music back in the day, or have been raised with it from their parents.
"Sometimes I get a lot other people from Holland, Belgium and Germany, where Neil Diamond was also popular back in the day. I have also noticed a lot more families watching the show due to the popularity of 'Sweet Caroline' — I can sense the children are itching for me to get the end of my show — so they can join in on my encore and sing it at the top of their voice."
However, some of the tourists who come to watch him perform can be "annoying". Ben said: "With it being Benidorm, obviously there are people out to have a good time. Some take it too far and I get the impression they think it’s like a ‘Disneyland’ type place with no rules, where stupid behaviour is allowed and acting drunk and disorderly will be tolerated.
"It’s still a lot of people’s hometown, where they have been born and raised, yet a certain minority can attempt to spoil it for holidaymakers and even the locals. The majority are here to enjoy the sun, the beach, the drinks and of course, the entertainment, and this is why Benidorm is still the number one hot spot for British people."
He continued: "The most annoying thing people sometimes do is walking infront of the stage instead of walking around when an act is on. Depending on the venue, sometimes they even walk behind the act — crossing the stage with drinks — which can be very annoying for the audience too.
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"Some venues are very strict on people stepping on the stage uninvited, especially grabbing or snatching microphones etc — this can result on you being ejected from the bar."
But, there's a reason he chooses to work in Benidorm too. The singer explained: "The entertainers in Benidorm are very close knit. We’re one big family as at the end of the day, we are all here to do the same thing, live a good life in the sun and earn a good living doing what we all love – performing. It’s also been great to see that when we have had fundraisers for people needing help everyone comes together to help, which is beautiful to see.
"As my girlfriend is Spanish, I really enjoy the Spanish way of life and their culture — not forgetting the food. I like eating the Spanish food, especially food which isn’t available to eat in the U.K. We also love going for drives around the area to Spanish towns, villages, beaches and going exploring."
He loves his career as much as the area too. Ben’s main goal when performing is for Neil’s fans to have a great time. He explained: “The main feedback I get is that people really enjoyed the show as it’s something different — it’s like going back in time to the 1970’s and watching Neil Diamond live in concert.
"For those people who got the chance to see him live back in the day — I want them to re-live the experience and also for those who never got the chance to — I want them to feel as if they HAVE seen him. Personally, I think that’s what being an impersonator is all about."
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