Let It Shine



Mel Giedroyc and Graham Norton


Gary Barlow, Martin Kemp, Dannii Minogue (judges, all shows)

Guest judges: Amber Riley (heats, 4 episodes); Lulu, Ricki Lake, Ashley Roberts, Peter Kay (1 episode each)


BBC Studios Entertainment for BBC One, 7 January to 25 February 2017 (8 episodes in 1 series)


Gary Barlow from Take That has written a jukebox musical. On the maxim of "write what you know", it's an account of the rise, fall, and rebirth of Take That.

There's one problem: Take That cannot play themselves on stage. They're as old as their fans, and can't pass for strapping young lads any more.

To solve this problem, Barlow and the BBC stage a talent competition. Their aim: cast five members of the band.

Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc host. The judging panel includes Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet and Eastenders), Dannii Minogue (a singer in her own right), and Amber Riley from Glee for the heats.

Solo auditions covered the first four shows. After each young man sung, the judging panel marked the performance out of 5. The total score was indicated by stars on a catwalk; the contestant stood on star 15, and if it lit up, he was through.

Let It Shine Onward leading, still proceeding?

A "dance check" ensured the lads could dance as well as sing. Acting, the last aspect of a stage musical, was not directly tested on the show. The contestants were put into five groups of eight, reduced to groups of five by a single performance.

After that, the live shows began. Mel Giedroyc stopped hanging around backstage and moved into the foreground with Graham Norton. Viewers voted for their favourite performance, and the bottom two groups in the vote could be eliminated. The judges could put through one band as a whole, or could mix and match from both remaining bands.

Let It Shine The interval acts included Take That, surprisingly.

Let It Shine was a revival of the musical casting shows from about a decade ago. Unlike How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and its sequels, the decisions were by committee, not the all-powerful Lord Lloyd-Webber.

Let It Shine was also the BBC's response to losing The Voice UK to ITV. It beat direct competitor Ninja Warrior UK, but lost to The Voice most weeks.

The television programme set a buzz around the theatre show - upbeat, friendly, good fun, up for a laugh. There was nothing to frighten the core audience of thirty- and forty-something women, and that's promising for The Band.

The ultimate success of Barlow and Tim Firth's The Band will be measured in theatreland, whether it is a lasting musical or a flash-in-the-pan flop. This will depend on the plot, the book and music. The cast, as seen on Let It Shine, are a small part of the success recipe.

After the series finished, it turned out the cast would be a smaller part than everyone thought. The group would not be the stars of the stage show, as heavily implied (but not outright stated) on the television. The Band would centre on five fans, growing up in the shade of their idols. A section of theatreland felt misled, and the good mood briefly soured.

But you can't keep the weight of Take That fans down. The musical succeeded, touring from autumn 2017 to spring 2019, with a short London run and a translation for the German stage. Reviews were positive, and there was a suggestion that it would be adapted for the cinema.


Let It Shine

AJ Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, Sario Solomon, Yazdan Qafour (performing as Five to Five)

Title music

Mcasso, credited for "Music".


The technical credits: Kim Gavin was the Director of Choreography, Nigel Wright the Musical Director, and Yvie Burnett the Vocal Coach.

Went out on Saturday evenings, immediately before ITV's The Voice UK.

Web links

BBC programme page


See also

Weaver's Week review, revisited the following week after more details of the play emerged.

About ten years earlier, the BBC made a small industry out of musical theatre talent searches: see How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, Any Dream Will Do, I'd Do Anything, Over the Rainbow. And however hard we try, we cannot forget ITV's efforts Superstar and Grease is the Word.


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