Gary Barlow is on the hunt for five performers to star in a new musical featuring the songs of Take That in new BBC1 talent search Let It Shine. As the auditions begin this week, Gary admits that some of the hopefuls remind him of when he was starting out...
As Gary Barlow's new BBC1 talent show, Let It Shine, premieres on Saturday, the star reveals just what the hopefuls will need to make it into 'The Band'...
What are you looking for in your new talent search? "We're looking for a five-piece band to star in a new musical called The Band, which will feature the songs of my band, Take That. I only agreed to do this show if it had a real prize attached to it – something tangible that the contestants get at the end. So those that are auditioning for us are actually auditioning for a job – a part in this new musical, which will go on a 12-month tour of the UK."
If the musical features Take That songs, are you consciously looking for performers that fit the ‘Take That’ mould? "No, we’re absolutely not looking for a ‘Mark’, ‘Gary’ or ‘Robbie’. The one thing we do want this band to have, however, is the energy and the youthfulness that we had when we first started back in 1991, which we certainly don’t have any more!"
Gary entertains the crowds on the audition trail
So although you’re not looking for boys that resemble Take That as such, have you seen any auditionees that have reminded you of ‘you’? "Sometimes emotionally. When I see these kids come out, bouncing around and their feet aren’t touching the ground, I think: ‘God, that was us!’ It reminds me of when we were first trying to get noticed."
As this is a musical based on the songs of Take That, will your bandmates Mark and Howard be involved at all in the audition process? "Well, Mark and Howard are co-producers, so they’re playing a behind-the-scenes role and viewers will see them meeting all the auditionees backstage. I can’t see any TV screens from the judging panel, so they’ll have headphones on, watching the auditions from the monitors."
Gary's Take That bandmates Mark Owen and Howard Donald will be watching from the sidelines
Take That’s success has always been down to a winning mix of talent and personality. How important is it for the hopefuls to have both? "In a musical theatre environment, personality is massive. Also, we’re not just looking for singers; we’re looking for actors and dancers as well. We want people of all ages who can hold their own in a musical and perform in front of 2,000 people without a microphone in their hand."
Hosts Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc will be adding some sparkle to Saturday nights
The show is hosted by Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc, and you’re joined on the judging panel by former Spandau Ballet star and EastEnders actor Martin Kemp along with Dannii Minogue, plus some guest judges. What do Martin and Dannii bring to the panel? "Having someone like Martin on board to look at the acting side of things was very important, because I don’t really have knowledge of that. When I was growing up, Martin was my ‘boy band’ – Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran were the bands I was trying to look like and sound like. Dannii’s done it all – we met so many times back in the day and obviously I know what she’s done as a judge on The X Factor."
Gary with judges Dannii and Martin and the guest judge for show one, Glee and West End star Amber Riley
Each judge secretly awards each hopeful a score out of five – and only those who light up 15 stars at the auditions go through to the next round. Do you find it difficult letting people go? "Many are auditioning because they’ve tried everything, they’re frustrated and they’re looking for direction. That’s why you’ll see us judges give long critiques even to the ones who don’t make it through to the next round – I want to make sure people go away knowing what they need to do next. I’m always inspired by young talent – it’s what keeps me going."
In later rounds, you’ll be putting the successful solo boys into bands to perform together for the remainder of the series. Can you explain a bit more about how this works? "At that point, we'll have 40 guys and we’ll have to put them into groups of five. Some bands will have definite lead singers, other bands will have more supporters. So it's going to be really hard working all that out because once they're in a particular band they're in it for the series."
Do you feel under pressure launching a major new Saturday night TV show? And are you concerned about going up against ITV’s The Voice? "I know Saturday night TV is particularly aggressive with everyone competing for those slots. I’m trying not to think about [ratings] because, at this point, this show just feels really nice and warm. But I’m kind of dreading that bit to be honest. This is a big show for me and a big show for BBC1. It feels fresh and hopefully will have a story that will continue way beyond the show."
Let It Shine starts on Saturday, January 7 at 7pm on BBC1
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!