Gary Barlow defends allowing professional performers to compete in Let it Shine

Professional singer and dancer Jason is currently starring in Thriller Live in the West End, but Take That singer Barlow says, "We have to open it up to everybody"

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Gary Barlow has defended the decision to allow professional musical theatre performers to compete on Let it Shine.

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The judge on the BBC1 show said that the competition has to be “open to everybody” in a bid to find five boys to star in a touring musical based on the songs of Take That.

The final performer on the first episode of Let it Shine was 30-year-old Jason Brock, a professional singer and dancer who is currently starring in Thriller Live in the West End, was previously in a band called 5Boyz and narrowly missed out on a place in the Pop Idol live shows in 2003.

After his performance of Whitney Houston’s Run to You, Brock received a standing ovation from all four judges – Barlow, Martin Kemp, Dannii Minogue and Amber Riley – and was awarded the maximum of 20 stars, progressing through to round two.

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When asked about the decision at a press conference, Barlow told RadioTimes.com and other press: “Well this is open to everybody. We have to open it to everybody. We can’t say ‘Hey listen, if you’ve been on a stage before you can’t come in the door’.

“The great thing about someone like Jason is that he brings with him two years of experience of being in a show. Now if he’s in a band with someone who’s had no experience and they’re 16 years old and they’ve left home for a year, he’s going to be an amazing support mechanism for who else he’s in a band with.”

Jason Brock competing on Pop Idol series 2 in 2003

He continued: “So that’s where you see how important it is to be in these groups and to have the cross section we’ve had. People who’ve never been on a stage, people who’ve performed for 20 years but have never been given an opportunity, to people who’ve already been in musicals – it has to be open to everybody and it’s important it’s open to everybody for that reason.”

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Fellow judge Kemp also weighed in on the debate, saying that Brock “lifts the other kids’ experience”.

“He makes them work even harder – because they know how good he is,” said Kemp. “So everybody has to lift their game to him. You can’t have everybody who’s never done it before because it wouldn’t happen like that.”

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Let it Shine continues Saturday January 14 on BBC One.