Gary Barlow teams up with BBC for Take That talent show Let It Shine
Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc will present Saturday night contest seeking stars for stage show
The BBC has turned to Gary Barlow in its hunt for the next Saturday night hit as he attempts to find a new Take That to take part in a Mamma Mia-style stage musical.
Let It Shine will be presented by Graham Norton and The Great British Bake Off’s Mel Giedroyc.
With distinct echoes of BBC1’s Andrew Lloyd Webber shows such as I’d Do Anything – also fronted by Norton – the new show will put together a group to join new stage show The Band, featuring the music of Take That.
The musical has been created in association with Barlow and his Take That bandmates Mark Owen and Howard Donald.
The BBC will hope it will help fill the hole left by another of its Saturday night talent shows, The Voice, which it lost to ITV.
BBC1 has struggled to come up with new Saturday entertainment formats, with flops including celebrity gymnastics show Tumble and big-budget adventure gameshow Prized Apart.
Culture secretary John Whittingdale has criticised BBC1 for not being distinctive enough. It remains to be seen if the Barlow show will pass this test.
It is at least not a bought-in format, like The Voice, which prompted much criticism of the BBC by MPs, and will be made in-house by BBC Studios.
It may also attract some of the criticism levelled at Lloyd Webber’s Saturday night shows for BBC1, which also included Any Dream Will Do and Over The Rainbow.
Critics said the BBC was serving Lloyd Webber’s commercial interests by devoting a sizeable chunk of its Saturday night schedule to a programme about one of his shows.
Actor and theatre director Kevin Spacey was among the most prominent critics, saying the Lloyd Webber shows unfairly distorted the West End theatre market.
“I felt that was essentially a 13-week promotion for a musical – where’s our 13-week programme?” Spacey said in an interview in 2008 in which he said they were “crossing the line” and “unfair”.
Unlike the Lloyd Webber shows, the Take That musical will start out as a touring production. The BBC has no commercial stake in the stage show.
Contestants do not have to be lookalikes to have a hope of winning because the show is a story which features Take That songs, rather than the story of Take That.
The show may also pose a few interesting diversity questions for the BBC, including whether women can take part (the band is expected to be all-male).
Barlow said: “Back in 1989, we were just a group of normal guys from Manchester who came together to become Take That.
“The secret to our success was that each of us brought something different to the group and that the five of us had real chemistry.”
He added: “Now with Let It Shine we’re looking for people from all walks of life to form another unique group who can recreate that magic.
“If you think you’ve got what it takes, we want to see it.”
Over eight weeks of competition, Barlow and three mentors will be looking for talented individuals to form a new group exuding Take That’s showmanship and stage presence.
Co-presenter Norton said he was looking forward to helming the forthcoming series.
“The combination of the BBC, everyone’s favourite band and Saturday nights made this an offer I simply couldn’t refuse,” he said.
Norton added: “If I wasn’t a part of Let It Shine I know I would be watching it at home – this way I just get the best seat in the house.”
Giedroyc, who will soon be back on screen co-hosting The Great British Bake Off with Sue Perkins, said Let It Shine will be “utterly spectacular”.
“This show brings together so many of the things I love – singing, dancing, Gary Barlow and Graham Norton. What’s not to love?”
Giedroyc continued: “I can’t wait to meet the singers and see the performances which I know will be utterly spectacular.
“If you know someone who’s got the moves, whether they already sing in the shower or on the stage, we want to see them.”
Charlotte Moore, BBC controller of TV Channels and iPlayer, said: “BBC1’s new Saturday night show will bring families together to celebrate Britain’s love of musical theatre, combining singing, performance and dance in a hotly contested search to find a new group.
“Masterminded by Gary Barlow, our hosts will guide viewers through eight weeks of unmissable competition, all to win a dream place in a new stage show.”