All too often, celebrity biographies tend to be by some non-entity barely out of their teens telling you the gripping story of their life so far (you know who you are), and it’s clearly been ghost-written as it’s formed of whole sentences and doesn’t have ‘innit’ at the end of every clause.
So it’s refreshing to come across one that’s as full of personality and fun as its writer, whose own distinctive ‘voice’ comes over loud and clear. Anything Goes is the sort of story of John Barrowman so far – and he’s packed quite a bit into a successful career on stage and screen. If you’ve seen John on TV recently (and lord knows you’ve had plenty of opportunity), you won’t be surprised to know that it’s deliciously gossipy, highly amusing and unflinchingly honest – the only disappointment I had was that I wasn’t listening to John read it on audiobook. Not that I usually do read my books that way, but this one is just begging for it (I’ve just discovered that there will be one, on sale from February 4).
This is my Guilty Pleasures strand and John’s been one of them for many years now (too many to admit to, but if I tell you I first saw him as a birthday present in his first go-round of Anything Goes, you can work it out for yourself). It’s been fun to see his recent success and confirmation as a national treasure following Dr Who and Torchwood, his charm making Capt Jack a surprise hero to children.
The book covers John’s childhood and how his family moved to the US from Glasgow when he was nine (for the record, he talks with a Scottish accent to his family and the familiar American one the rest of the time); how he almost literally walked into a starring role in the West End (with Elaine Paige in Anything Goes when he was 22); and how he found love with partner Scott Gill. It’s not a strictly linear tale, more like curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea (or better yet a glass of Champagne) ready for a good chat.
Applause should also go to Carole E. Barrowman, John’s sister, who co-wrote the book (mostly from John recording his memories) and really manages to keep the pace lively and John’s voice strong.
If the book whets your appetite for more, there will be a Platform at the National Theatre (www.nationaltheatre.org.uk) on February 11, where John will be talking about the book and then he’ll be touring the UK this spring, starting on April 7 in Cardiff. For details, visit www.johnbarrowman.com/concerts/anothersidetour.html