May the fourth be with you! Gary Barlow extends A Different Stage run in York

Gary Barlow: First there were two, now there are four shows

GARY Barlow is adding a FOURTH show at the Grand Opera House, York, on June 9 after his June 10 and 11 performances and hastily added Sunday matinee on June 12 all sold out.

The Wirral singer, songwriter, composer, producer, talent show judge and author will be presenting his theatrical one-man show A Different Stage, ahead of the September 1 publication of his autobiography of the same name by Penguin Books.

“Now I’ve done shows where it has just been me and a keyboard,” says the Take That mainstay, 51. “I’ve done shows where I sit and talk to people. I’ve done shows where I’ve performed as part of a group.

“But this one, well, it’s like all of those, but none of them. When I walk out this time, well, it’s going to be a very different stage altogether.”

Tickets for June 9’s 7.30pm show are selling fast at or on 0844 871 7615.

‘Music makes things better’, says Gary Barlow in one-man show A Different Stage at Grand Opera House on June 10 and 11

TAKE That legend, singer, songwriter, composer, producer, talent show judge and author Gary Barlow will present his theatrical one-man show A Different Stage at the Grand Opera House, York, on June 10 and 11 .

“Now I’ve done shows where it has just been me and a keyboard,” says Barlow, “I’ve done shows where I sit and talk to people. I’ve done shows where I’ve performed as part of a group.

“But this one, well, it’s like all of those, but none of them. When I walk out this time, well, it’s going to be a very different stage altogether.”

Tickets for the York shows, part of an itinerary of 24 dates in seven cities, go on sale on Friday at 9.30am at or on 0844 871 7615.

Telling his life story, in his words, in a “dramatised theatre setting”, A Different Stage premiered at The Brindley, in Runcorn, Cheshire, in February, since when Barlow has played to sell-out audiences in Salford, Liverpool and Edinburgh and has announced his West End debut at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre from August 30 to September 25.

Created by Barlow and his long-time friend, fellow son of the Wirral and collaborator Tim Firth, A Different Stage finds Barlow narrating the journey of his life alongside the music from his discography in a 32-year career spanning Take That, solo projects and his musicals Finding Neverland and Calendar Girls The Musical.

The show’s publicity describes A Different Stage as “a project unlike anything he’s ever done before, where Gary will take the audience behind the curtain, with nothing off limits in this special performance”.

Gary Barlow: On the road to the Grand Opera House, York, with his autobiographical one-man show A Different Stage in June

As part of Take That, Barlow has won eight BRIT Awards and sold over 45 million records, and among his stellar collaborations he has co-written and produced songs for Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Elton John and Robbie Williams.

Since turning his attention to the world of theatre, he has composed the score for Finding Neverland, worked alongside Tim Firth on Calendar Girls The Musical and collaborating with his Take That bandmates and Firth on The Band’, a record-breaking stage musical now being adapted into a feature film.

Coming next will be Barlow’s autobiography, also entitled A Different Stage. Published by Penguin Books on September 1, it “documents the people, places, music and cultural phenomena that have had an impact on him both as a musician and a human being” in a warm-hearted, humorous and unexpectedly intimate memoir.

“Sometimes you are forced to take stock and wonder what your life’s all been about, and where it is going,” says Barlow. “Ever since I was a boy, I’ve thought that music makes things better. A Different Stage is my love letter to music, a celebration of the songs and sounds that have inspired me and meant something in my life.’

From the working men’s club where it all began through to the stadium tours, the book’s story of Barlow’s life, told through music, is complemented by photography from his one-man show and previously unseen personal photos and notebooks.

“I just wanted to share my personal journey through the last five decades – the highs and lows, the ups and downs. So, in A Different Stage, this is me opening the curtains and sharing moments nobody has heard or seen before,” says Barlow.

This week, York Stage’s York premiere of Barlow and Firth’s Calendar Girls The Musical is running at the Grand Opera House with performances at 7.30pm tonight and tomorrow, 4pm and 8pm on Saturday and 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Saturday. Tickets are still available.

York Stage’s poster for the York premiere of Calendar Girls The Musical, at the Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday

REVIEW: Yotam Ottolenghi: A Life In Flavour, York Theatre Royal, September 21

Yotam Ottolenghi: Food for thought and thoughts for food at York Theatre Royal

TO complement this season’s York Food and Drink Festival, here was the Food and Think fiesta, more talk than fork.

Jerusalem, Simple and Flavour cookery book writer Yotam Ottolenghi, London restaurateur and delicatessen doyen and Middle Eastern recipe magician for the Guardian, would be in the hot seat rather than serving up hot action on the hob this evening. Unlike the comedy-infused combination of cooking and conversation in The Hairy Bikers’ live shows, for example.

Instead, legs as elongated as his Ottolenghi surname as he took to his chair, Israeli-born chef Yotam settled elegantly into answering a series of home-cooking and London-in-lockdown questions from Observer journalist and Yotam enthusiast Rachel Cooke with charm, warmth and a studious disposition, yet one flavoured with amusement and observant humour.

Hosted by Penguin Books, with signed copies of Ottolenghi Flavour to be collected in the foyer afterwards in a ticket and book deal, the Cooke and the cook show was more than a plug for that “flavour-forward, vegetable-based” book, and thankfully there was no such “flavour-forward” jargon in raconteur Ottolenghi’s responses.

He was quick to dispel the myth he was a vegetarian, or indeed vegan, for all his famed love of preserved lemons, although how he elevates fruit and vegetables is key to his cooking, along with his love of less-appreciated ingredients such as the tang of sumac.

He recalled his Jerusalem upbringing as the son of a chemistry professor and high school principal, enjoying shopping in food markets and tending to his mother’s herb garden, and later his literature studies, before heading to Europe, first Amsterdam and then London, ostensibly to study further, but the call of the kitchen took over.

Inevitably, the discussion turned to the pandemic, when everything stopped for tea and every other meal chez Ottolenghi. The downside of lockdown for Yotam was all the “terrifying” uncertainty brought on by the requirement to shut his restaurants and the decision to do likewise with his delis, but the upside was time spent in the kitchen at home, reaching, like so many, to the back of the store cupboard to feed his young sons, Max and Flynn.

He kept the dishes simple, with his children as his tasting panel. Fellow members of his Ottolenghi Test Kitchen “superteam” did likewise, and the collective results are now in print, published on September 30, as Shelf Love.

He poured out his enthusiasm for hummus as you should have it, as a meal in itself with pitta and chickpeas, rather than that magnolia of supermarket tubs. This is what his audience of pans people came for: the inside knowledge on how to improve and how to improvise dishes, how to make the most of long-neglected polenta and wholegrain rice. From back of the cupboard to back of the net.

Ottolenghi’s 75 minutes of culinary chat concluded with a Q and A, where we discovered his favourite herb and spice – coriander and cumin respectively – and we vowed to take his advice to always add freshly chopped tomatoes to the tinned variety.

Yotam and York had come together for one night, a dinner date of sorts, but you should not expect the flowering of a beautiful relationship. Ever the controlling perfectionist, he likes to be within an hour’s reach of all his restaurants, ruling out expansion beyond London, he said.

You will just have to reach for his books instead on an ever-expanding shelf.