GARETH Gates has come a long way since his first appearance as a spikey-haired teenager on Pop Idol.

The young lad from Bradford captured the nation’s hearts en route to finishing runner up to Will Young on the TV talent show in 2002.

Since then he first had a series of number one singles, been on the reality show Dancing on Ice and has now made a name for himself as a musical theatre star.

Gareth will be heading to Blackpool later this month in the hit musical Footloose based on the hit Eighties movie. Although Gareth has taken the show to major theatres all over the country, he is particularly excited to be bringing it to the Opera House.

“I’ve performed a lot in Blackpool over the years and you always get a great response from the audience.

“I think with this show in particular will really work extremely well there.

“The great thing about this theatre adaptation is that is very true to the film, so if you’re a fan of the film you’ll love the theatre version.”

Footloose tells the story of a city boy who arrives in a rural backwater in America to find the town has banned dancing. In true rock and roll spirit he rebels and chaos ensure.

Footloose is packed with hits including Holding Out For a Hero and Let’s Hear it for the Boy plus the title track, Footloose

It’s an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza which places great demands on the cast.

“Everything is live on the show,” said Gareth. “And with this cast, everybody songs, acts and dances and characters will also play instruments live too. I really have the greatest respect for this cast, they are a really talented bunch.”

Gareth plays Willard who provides a lot of the comedy in the show.

“I’m fortunate that I play a cowboy who can’t dance, which pretty much suits me down to the ground”

“At the end of the show he’s had to learn how to dance. I have done parts before where I’ve had to dance and, of course there was Dancing on Ice, so I picked up the steps OK and I think I manage to pull it off at the end.”

Gareth is touring in the show with Maureen Nolan of Nolan Sisters fame and he admits that everyone in the show looks up to her.

“She has such a great wealth of experience and we all really respect that,” said Gareth. She worked constantly in the business all her life and we like to just chat to Maureen to get tips in the industry. She really takes care of everyone.”

Footloose has been touring the UK since the beginning of the year and Gareth will be with the show until it ends at the end of October.

“Pretty much straight after that I’ll be heading over to Belfast where I’m in pantomime until January,” he said.

“Then next year, I’ve got a few offers on the table but I’m unsure what to do at the moment.

“I’m thinking that I might take a few months off as I’ve been working constantly, so that might be really nice.

“I’d also like to record an album at some time next year. I’m constantly writing music anyway and I think that’s the plan.”

Having started out on a singer on a reality show, Gareth appears to have found his true home in the theatre.

“That’s true,” he agreed. “My West End career started when I did Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when I was 24.

“I had a meeting with Andrew Lloyd Webber and he offered me the title role which was a great honour.

“Then did Les Miserables which I did for a year-and-a-half and then shows like Legally Blonde.

“I think I’ve carved out quite a nice career.”

Footloose, Blackpool Opera House, Monday, September 19 to Saturday, September 24. Details from