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Our review of Gary Barlow's latest show at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre A Different Stage

Take That legend and all-round musical superstar Gary Barlow is wowing audiences at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre between now and Saturday, with his latest venture, A Different Stage.

Gary Barlow - A Different Stage - Photograph by Claire Kramer MacKinnon
Gary Barlow - A Different Stage - Photograph by Claire Kramer MacKinnon

Not only is Gary Barlow a singing sensation, but an outstanding record producer and composer, adored by fans the world over, so it was a delight to hear from “a little bird in the know” that our wonderful city centre theatre is Mr B’s favourite venue on his UK tour so far.

And who can argue? The Wolverhampton Grand has the perfect ambience, atmosphere and aura for this intimate look at the star’s life story, including his rise to fame and personal experiences, all set to the music of his incredible career.

The look of the show is pure simplicity; just Gary, his instruments and some cases, but superb lighting effects draw you into his space, creating a welcoming feel. It’s as if you are in his recording studio at home.

A Different Stage is a collaboration with his writing partner, Tim Firth, with whom he has penned musicals including Calendar Girls and The Band, and they are clearly a successful duo. This new, one-man show is very different however, and the perfect vehicle to set Mr Barlow on a new phase of his journey - as an actor, if that’s what he wants to do next.

Welcoming the audience into the show with a completely open heart, nothing is off limits which makes his fans feel included, trusted and appreciated.

Now, you might be forgiven for thinking that the life of a pop star is a bed of roses, and compared to most it is, but like all of us, there are ups and downs which Gary is not afraid to share. Alluding to his early, struggling years, to body image issues and bulimia, from the death of his darling daughter little Poppy Barlow, to the famous fall out with Robbie, and the constant voices in his head telling him he is simply not good enough, Gary pours his heart out.

The tears certainly flow in parts, but in the main, laughter and hilarity dominate the show.

His infectious northern charm, self-deprivation and subtle wit are to be applauded, as is his ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand, and not just because he is “the” Gary Barlow; it is his natural ability to entertain.

The music spans decades and has been the backdrop to so events in so many people’s lives. In A Different Stage, the audience were treated to A Million Love Songs, Patience, For Good, These Days and a stunning version of Rule the World complete with ethereal lighting, creating a heavenly, emotional atmosphere which clearly touched everyone watching.

Would I have liked more music? Yes of course, but the songs that were included were delivered completely from the heart, and of course a perfect display of his incredible talent.

So, if you are a fan of Mr Barlow or not, this is a must see, as it is simply a man sharing his life experiences, some of which we know for ourselves. It is honest and raw.

Is it a little over sentimental? Yes, definitely, but then in this day and age we all need a little romance and joy in our lives and Gary Barlow A Different Stage provides just that in bucket loads.

There is very limited availability, but grab a ticket if you can on 01902 429212 or visit grandtheatre.co.uk

Runs until November 20.

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