Interview: Gareth Gates

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 15 years since Pop Idol catapulted Gareth Gates into the spotlight.

After selling more than three million records, the baby-faced singer rediscovered his love of performing by reinventing himself as a musical theatre performer. Against all odds, he’s since attracted rave reviews after being cast in everything from Legally Blonde to Les Miserables.

Next week, Gareth will be in Edinburgh to perform in Footloose: The Musical at the Festival Theatre alongside Maureen Nolan. He took a break from rehearsals to chat to AAA about the show…

You’re set to star in the upcoming UK tour of Footloose. How have the rehearsals been going?

“We’ve spent three weeks rehearsing for the show as there’s lots to do. There’s no band on stage with us – we’re all playing our own instruments as well as singing, dancing and acting. It’s been great!”

Do you play a lot of instruments, then?

“I’ve played piano, guitar and drums since I was young but I’ve found being surrounded by so many talented people who play instruments like saxophones and trumpets really inspiring.”

Can you describe your character in Footloose?

“I’ll be playing a character called Willard who is from a small US town called Bomont, where everybody knows everybody else and nobody every leaves. When Ren, who was played by Kevin Bacon in the film, arrives, he tries to teach Willard how to dance.

He’s a really funny character and this is my first time doing comedy so I’ve had a lot of fun with the role.”

Did you grow up watching the film?

“Absolutely – it was released in 1984, the year I was born, and so I watched it loads when I was growing up. The show is very much like the film – it’s really fun and includes all the classic Eighties songs that people will know and love. It’ll be a great evening at the theatre!”

You’ve been cast in such a wide variety roles throughout your music theatre career – which one are you most proud of?

“I think it has to be being cast as Marius in Les Miserables as it was such an incredible show to be a part of. I’m also having so much fun with Footloose – playing the character that makes the audience laugh is great. It’s been very nice to do something completely different.”

What role would you like to play next?

 “There’s many shows I’d love to do but I’d really like to play Chris in Miss Saigon and Fiyero in Wicked.”

Do you see yourself as a full-time musical theatre performer now or would you like to go back to recording your own music again?

“As well as performing in theatres, I’m constantly doing my own shows all over the country. From now on, I think my career will always be a mixture of both. I’d like to go back to recording new music again – I’ll just have to balance everything.”

Which do you find more challenging?

“Both have different pressures. When doing a gig, I can relax as I’m just being myself but I also need to make sure that I put on a good performance for the audience. There’s less pressure when you walk out as part of a cast and I also have the creative freedom to play the role however I want to.”

You recently underwent surgery on your vocal chords. How has your recovery been so far?

“The surgery was down to me overusing my vocal chords – I was working too much and ruptured them, meaning I couldn’t sing as well as usual. I’m still in recovery but my rehab is going pretty well. People won’t notice it when I’m onstage but I’ve had to change the way I speak and sing.”

Footloose, Festival Theatre, Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 February, 7:30pm (2:30pm matinee performances on Thursday and Saturday), £22 – £42, 0131 529 6000.

Words: Amy Anderson

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