WHEN Gary Barlow announced he would be performing a series of one-man shows at The Brindley, it may have felt to many an odd decision to choose a 420-seat theatre up north, having taken centre stage at everything from the Olympic Stadium to the Queen’s back garden in the past.

Unsurprisingly tickets sold out in a matter of minutes for the six-night run in Runcorn, just down the road from his home town of Frodsham.

But for the loyal fans fortunate enough to have bagged seats to the premiere of A Different Stage on Thursday, things quickly fell into place.

This wasn’t the usual stage at all for the Take That star. It was much more than that.

This was the story of his life told in a completely unique, theatrical style.


With his late dad Colin’s words still resonating in his head, ‘never ever go on stage unrehearsed’, this was evidently the most rehearsed work of Gary’s career to date. A word-perfect two-hour show that has been several years in the making and well worthy of the opening night audience's standing ovation.

And it was clearly a cathartic experience to be able to reflect on a career that has seen incredible highs but some equally difficult lows. 

The 51-year-old, having always been unfairly tarred with the ‘Boring Barlow’ brush, single-handedly entertained a captive and intimate audience who laughed and cried throughout a very personal retelling of the story of his life, assisted only by a small off-stage production team, some minimal but clever staging, and drawing on a script made possible thanks to the expert work of long-time friend and Stockton Heath-raised writer Tim Firth.

Despite his critics, Gary has always been his own biggest critic and A Different Stage was no exception. Self-deprecating without wallowing in self-pity, nothing was out of bounds during the intimate show. Even the tax scandal headlines got a mention.

There was a nostalgic look back at the early years, his favourite pick n mix remembered equally as fondly as his childhood days with mum Marge, dad Colin and brother Ian.

Event promoter Simon Moran, Warrington Wolves owner and former Woolston High School pupil, was also namechecked for his ongoing support through SJM concerts.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Gary has previously talked about his friendship with Wolves boss Simon Moran

There were countless laugh out loud moments as he recalled tales from his early 80s performances at Connah’s Quay Labour Club and Halton British Legion, through to his disastrous performance at Clive Davis’ Grammy Awards party in America following Robbie Williams’ departure from the band and their subsequent split.

And there were some darker periods of his life to reflect on too - his weight gain, bulimia battle, death of his father and heart-breaking tragedy of stillborn daughter Poppy with devoted wife Dawn all handled sensitively.

But ultimately this was a simple story about a talented blond-haired boy from just down the M56 who dreamed big and made it big, but never forgot where he came here from. 

  • A Different Stage is on at The Brindley until February 15 but tickets are sold out.

Runcorn and Widnes World: