Fab ’80s fun as Gareth Gates kicks off his Sunday shoes for Footloose

Gareth Gates as Willard in Footloose. Picture by Matt Martin

Gareth Gates as Willard in Footloose. Picture by Matt Martin

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Worldwide smash hit Footloose: The Musical brings Gareth Gates to Brighton Theatre Royal (July 25-30) in the latest in a growing line of musical theatre successes.

Gareth, who rose to fame when he went head to head against Will Young in the inaugural series of Pop Idol in 2001, points out that the Footloose film starring Kevin Bacon came out in 1984, the year in which he was born.

“But I have always been a big, big fan of the film, and I really love the musical version of the show which is great fun and very, very true to the film. I have always loved 80s music, that era of music, the introduction of synthesisers. It’s a great sound that just changed pop music for ever.”

Featuring classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and the title track, Footloose: The Musical tells the story of city boy Ren who has to move to a rural backwater in America where dancing is banned. All hell breaks out as Ren breaks loose and soon has the whole town up on its feet.

Gareth, who plays Willard, said: “I have been extremely fortunate in the musical theatre I have done. I made my first appearance in a musical when I was 23. I was Joseph. I had a meeting with Andrew Lloyd Webber, and musical theatre was something I always wanted to do. He offered me the part in the West End. After that, I did Les Miserables and then I did Legally Blonde. I have carved out quite a decent career.

“It was actually in Joseph that I began to sing at school as an eight-year-old. My school was putting on a production of the show, and I just went along to the auditions because my friends were. I ended up getting the title role, and it was because of that that I really started to sing. For Les Miserables, I was asked to be part of the 25th anniversary of the show, and we took it on tour. It was great to be part of that. I was asked by Cameron Mackintosh if I would play the part in the West End. It’s just an incredible show. It’s hard work to feel all that emotion, but it is very rewarding.”

And all because of Pop Idol, the series that has made everything possible for Gareth. “Pop Idol was the first show of its kind, before all the X Factor shows you get now. It was very helpful, and it changed my life. I was very fortunate to have all my success as a recording artist on the back of it. I worked really really hard on music as a child. I couldn’t really talk very easily to other children (because of stammering). My form of expression as a child was singing. I practised every day for hours and hours and gave myself the best chance I could, and then I was very, very lucky to find a show like that. I think the final really gripped the nation!”

Since when, he has managed to sustain success while plenty of other talent-show finalists have disappeared for good: “I just think that is down to hard work. I am a firm believer that if you put the work in, if you have got the drive, you can achieve what you want to achieve. I used the opportunity that Pop Idol gave me to build a career, and I am as busy now as I have ever been.”

Tickets on 0844 871 7650.

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