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  • Gary Barlow already planning second series of his new BBC talent show Let It Shine to find a new girl band

    Take That star seeks five men to star in musical about his former band — and next time he wants to find a girl group

    NEW BBC prime-time show Let It Shine kicks off on Saturday – and creator GARY BARLOW is so sure of it, he is already planning a second series.

    The TAKE THAT legend has recruited AMBER RILEY, DANNII MINOGUE and MARTIN KEMP to help find five men to star in the musical featuring his former band’s hits.

    And next year he plans to tweak the format to find a girl band.

    Gary said: “I’ve been thinking, at this point, ‘I hope we get a stage for girls, too’.

    “What that device will be I have no idea, but it will definitely be focused around bands again.

    “The underlying message for this show is that I think teenagers can often live a very solitary existence with their phones and games and I think what this show and the interaction between the groups is doing is teaching people to work as a team.”

    Gary will launch his musical, The Band, next year after finding the talent on Let It Shine. The musical will be an original story about a boy band set to Take That’s music.

    The idea was first conceived about 18 months ago, before TV bosses were involved.
    Former X Factor judge Gary met BBC reps a year ago.



    He explained: “They were looking for new shows. They said I’d not been on TV for three years since The X Factor.

    “They were saying, ‘Would you like to be on TV? Would you like to be part of an existing show or do something new?’ So we started developing it.”

    Let It Shine, hosted by GRAHAM NORTON and Bake Off’s MEL GIEDROYC, will feature solo auditions, a stage of group performances, then live shows.

    The winners will tour with the musical, but Gary’s aim is to get it to London’s West End.

    He said: “That’s the goal. The West End is one of the most brutal stages to be on because it’s the centre of the world for theatre.”

    DANNII Minogue says Let It Shine is nothing like her old home on the X Factor.

    She said: “There’s happiness, brightness, sparkle, fun, good vibes, positivity . . .  the title says it all.

    “Gary has worked in the business for a long time. He has such a great bunch of professionals that he’s bringing together.”

    GARY can add host Mel Giedroyc to his list of female fans – but he is not the sole focus of her desires.

    She said: “Barlow is sensational – it’s a joy for a perimenopausal woman.

    “One musn’t favouritise but it’s a joy to have Kempo in the mix, having been a big fan of Spandau Ballet all my life. It’s very exciting. I couldn’t look him in the eye when I first met him – I just looked at his chest, which was worse.

    “It will be so dangerous when we go live. No eye contact, no looking, we’re pre-watershed.”

    Her fellow host Graham Norton said: “Working with Mel is quite scary because it’s too much fun and you forget you’re on telly.”

    Those two are going to make a great double act.

    JASON ORANGE is the only original Take That member yet to get involved in Let It Shine.

    ROBBIE WILLIAMS has already filmed a special segment for later in the series, while MARK OWEN and HOWARD DONALD are Gary’s secret moles.

    Gary said: “Mark and Howard are almost our spies backstage.

    “They’re hanging around, they’re chatting with [the contestants] . . .  they’re obviously doing it for a TV purpose as well.

    “It’s really nice because they’re getting the natural stuff first before they come out and see the audience and us, but obviously it’s their catalogue as well.

    “We’re all part of this and we want it to be amazing.”

    ason quit Take That in 2014, nine years after the band re-formed as a four-piece.
    But I recently revealed how Robbie is planning to return to the studio to record new music with the group.

    One person particularly pleased about his involvement is Dannii Minogue, who said: “I did like the cheekiness of Robbie because we would be hanging out backstage at Top of the Pops or at concerts and stuff and he’s bit of a rascal. I like that.”

    A grumpy Gary conceded: “She prefers Robbie, bring him back.”

    It won’t be long before he is.

    LET It Shine judge Martin Kemp has backed up my exclusive that he has had talks about creating a SPANDAU BALLET musical.

    He is keen to do a stage show featuring his band’s hits after helping Gary Barlow to find the stars for his Take That musical.

    He confirmed: “We have a huge catalogue of songs.

    “So yeah, I think we would do it – it’s something that we have all spoken about a few times.

    “But actually getting the ball rolling is a different thing because my band will get on for periods of time when we’re away and then we land at Heathrow, pick up our bags off the conveyor belt and then we fall out.”




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  • Gary Barlow is confident about success of Take That musical The Band: "I know what I'm doing"

    The Take That frontman said he wasn't worried about the failure of similar musicals like Viva Forever!


    Gary Barlow has said that he knows The Band will be successful because he knows what he's doing.

    The judge and mastermind behind BBC1's Let It Shine said that the touring musical would be a hit and not suffer a similar fate to the likes of Spice Girl jukebox production Viva Forever!

    Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press immediately after the final of Let It Shine, Barlow said: "This show will be great... I know what I'm doing."



    He also revealed details about upcoming touring musical The Band, which is written by Tim Firth and produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers. The trio are behind Barlow's latest West End production The Girls, which opened to positive reviews.

    "I know the team who's in charge of these guys," said Barlow. "We've just had a show open on the West End this week, we've had rave reviews. I know the team that's going to be working with them all, they're going to have skills and careers that's going to hopefully last them for the rest of their lives."

    He also revealed further details about musical The Band, which will open in Manchester on September 8 and tour the UK for almost a year before coming to an unspecified West End theatre in 2018.

    He said that winning band Five to Five will be doing "no spoken acting" in the production, and that instead the plot of the musical centres around five 16-year-old girls. The music of Take That provides the soundtrack to their lives.


    "The interesting thing with what these guys are going to do is, there's no spoken acting for them at all," revealed Barlow. "It's all done through song.

    "When I started this process, when you think of the risk we've actually taken... I hoped for a really good band at the end of this, we've got a brilliant band."

    For Let It Shine's losing bands Drive and Nightfall, there still could be a role for them in the musical. Barlow said that there will be three understudies for the musical and he was hoping that they would come from the two losing acts on the show. He also said that the likelihood of Five to Five making an album was "definitely say that’s on the cards."

    Ahead of the show opening in the West End, Barlow said that "the one thing" he had learned from making musicals was that touring them first is key to ensure their quality and therefore popularity.

    "You tour them around the country, keep tweaking and tweaking, making it better, making it tighter, making the sound better. It's all about this now being the best show on in the theatre."


    Barlow said that all of the performers bar one character had already been cast for The Band, and that the five female leads are all unknown actresses.

    He remained tight-lipped on further details of the plot, saying simply: "All will be revealed."

    Find out more about how to get tickets for The Band and where the musical will be touring here.


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  • The inspiring truth behind Gary Barlow's hit show Calendar Girls revealed

    Take That star Gary Barlow has finally ­realised his dream of their story being his first West End musical after six years of hard work



    Seeing 12 middle-aged women stripping off on stage is not what you would usually expect from a sellout West End musical.

    But the hundreds cheering – and sobbing – through the gala night of musical The Girls proved the ladies of the North Yorkshire’s Rylstone and District ­Women’s Institute really did change the world – or at least the world’s ­attitudes.

    Almost 20 years after baring all, the ­Calendar Girls have raised more than £4million. That’s not to mention the hit film and play they inspired.

    And now, after six years of work, Take That star Gary Barlow has finally ­realised his dream of their story being his first West End musical.

    But for some in the audience, it was even more emotional as the family of John Baker, whose death from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1998 inspired the original calendar, looked on.

    Wife Angela and children Matthew and Rachel joined the cast – including Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em star Michele Dotrice and Joanna Riding - on stage for the finale as chart-topper Gary gave a surprise performance.

    For Matthew, 45, it was also an uplifting ­experience. “The music brings a whole new depth and level of emotion into the story,” he says. “The journey reminds me of the highs and lows of what we, as a family, went through.

    “­People laugh and cry in the audience like we did.”

    Now a solicitor with two daughters, Matthew has only recently been able to watch the film ­version of his real-life family history.

    “At the time, it was all too raw and I felt emotional,” he explains. “It was very sad, but as a lasting legacy to my dad. It’s done a lot of positive things. My father would have a huge smile on his face about all of this.”

    His mother Angela, 71, who ­travelled to London from her native Linton, North Yorks, is excited her husband’s memory lives on.

    “It feels amazing to see the show on the West End stage,” she says.

    “The one good thing is that John did know about the calendar, he shook his head and said, ‘You’ll never do it. You’re all talk’. But you don’t say that to a group of feisty, Yorkshire ladies.

    “Without my friends rallying round and organising it we’d have never have done it. But, as they said, it gave me something to do. It’s just been amazing. I think John is smiling.”

    The WI initially aimed to raise money to buy a sofa in the visitors’ area of the hospital where John was treated.

    Since that first calendar in 1999, the girls have raised nearly £4million for the Bloodwise charity .

    The calendar would never have happened without Angela’s friend and fellow WI member Tricia Stewart, 68, played by Helen Mirren in the 2003 movie.

    “The idea started a really a joke,” Tricia admits. “I thought we could do an alternative to the traditional ­calendar in the nude.

    “I knew it would cause a stir, but I would never imagine in my wildest dreams it would be this big phenomenon lasting nearly 20 years.”

    The film, also starring Julie Walters and Celia Imrie, grossed £77million before a stage version was ­produced six years later.

    Gary realised the potential for a musical after super-fan mum Marjorie took him to see the show for the third time.

    He was already old pals with writer Tim Firth so the pair set about swapping music and lyrics over email.

    The songs were polished in Marjorie’s front room in Frodsham, Cheshire.

    For Gary, 46, the ­production is steeped in nostalgia. “It is a very northern show,” he explains.

    “That ­village in the show is where we have grown up and those women are our mums really. It just tickled me as there are so many things like the things you say at school in it.

    "I love it for that. I think loss is one thing that touches so many people. The one thing I love about this musical is the emotional thing of walking towards hope at the end.

    “Not the loss itself, which of course is a sad part of the piece, but finding hope again makes me very emotional to watch. It shows the strength and character of human beings.”

    With a budget of more than £3million, it needs to play at 70% capacity for a year to make its money back

    With the 20-year anniversary fast approaching, Angela and her friends are being bombarded with offers to do another calendar. But while they continue to fundraise, she thinks the time has come to keep their clothes on.

    She adds: “I don’t think we’ll ever do another nude calendar.

    “We’re all ­getting on, the props to hide our ­modesty would have to be a bit bigger and definitely a bit lower.”

    • The Girls is at the Phoenix Theatre, London WC2, 08448 717629, booking until April 22.




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  • Let It Shine's Gary Barlow fears the Take That musical will be a big flop


    He launched Let It Shine to find five lads to play boyband members in the show, which will tour the UK.

    Viewers will vote on which contestants will win a role in the final on Saturday.

    Ratings have topped six million viewers and Gary is hoping that means ticket sales will be through the roof.

    But he said: “Theatre is a competitive market. For new British musicals, it is tough.”

    In recent years productions inspired by the Spice Girls and X Factor have both been disasters and had to close early. Gary is determined to make the Take That show a success.

    He is also behind new West End musical The Girls, which is based on hit film Calendar Girls.

    Speaking at its opening night at London’s Phoenix Theatre, he said: “It’s tough for any new show.

    “When we started The Girls five years ago I didn’t realise it was going to land in the middle of a TV series and just before a Take That album!”

    ● Gary will be joined by former bandmate Robbie Williams on the show this weekend.




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  • Gary Barlow says he’s taking ‘nothing for granted’ after standing ovation for The Girls

    Gary Barlow today said he was taking “nothing for granted” after his first musical The Girls won a standing ovation from stars at its West End debut.

    Mark Owen was at the show opener last night to support his “workaholic” bandmate, who is also filming the BBC’s Let it Shine and preparing a new Take That album.

    Graham Norton, Great British Bake Off’s Mel Giedroyc, Soft Cell frontman Marc Almond and This Morning’s Phillip Schofield were among the crowd at the Phoenix Theatre.

    Barlow began writing the musical five years ago with childhood friend Tim Firth, who directed the play and smash hit 2003 film Calendar Girls starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. 

    Barlow told the Standard: “I didn’t watch any musicals to prepare. Tim instructed me to just go from the heart and stick to what I do best and not become a West End writer.

    “This is a very Northern show, this is kind of my childhood, the village is where I grew up and those women are like our mothers. It’s great hearing all the slang we used to say on the playground at school.”

    The Girls follows the true story of a Women’s Institute group who decide to fundraise by posing for a raunchy calendar after the death of one of their husbands.

    Barlow, 46, said: “The West End is such a competitive market, for a new British musical to become a hit is a really hard thing to do. We’re taking nothing for granted.”

    Graham Norton, who presents Let it Shine, said: “It’s extraordinary to see something on its opening night in the West End as polished and as confident as this was. It was the one of the best Mondays I’ve had in a long time.”

    Broadcaster John Sergeant, in the front row with wife Mary Smithies, said: “It’s a very tricky subject to tackle. 

    “Gary’s spirit and his tremendous force and energy pervaded the entire thing. There was just enough nudity — I was sitting very close which I can’t say if it’s a good or bad thing.”

    The Girls is booking until April 22 . Visit phoenixtheatrelondon.co.uk for tickets.




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