Gareth Gates joins line-up of judges for Stoke's Top Talent variety show
SINGER Gareth Gates has joined the line-up of celebrity guest judges for next week's Stoke's Top Talent variety show at The Regent theatre.
The 28-year-old, from Bradford, was runner-up in the first series of the ITV talent show Pop Idol and went on to sell 3.5 million records in the UK.
He is now an established musical theatre star – having taken starring roles in West End productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Les Miserables.
Gareth, who will be the guest judge for Monday night's first heat, joins a host of famous names who are giving up their time to support Jonathan Wilkes's search for new home-grown talent in the Potteries.
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On Tuesday Hollyoaks actress Rachel Shenton, from Blythe Bridge, joins the panel consisting of pantomime producer Kevin Wood, actor Eric Potts and Sentinel columnist Martin Tideswell.
Later in the week actress Louise Dearman, star of the West End production of the musical Wicked, will return to Hanley where she first appeared alongside Jonny Wilkes in pantomime in 2007.
She will be joined by Fame Academy star Kevin Adams and actress Susie Carley who appeared in panto with Jonny last Christmas in Aylesbury.
Completing the line-up is Welsh actor and panto dame Christian Patterson – a firm favourite with Potteries theatre audiences and a close friend of Jonny's.
Jonny said: "I'm thrilled to have the best line-up of judges we've ever had for Stoke's Top Talent.
"These friends of mine are top class entertainers who are giving up their time free of charge to support what is a fantastic community competition.
"When you combine these judges with the strongest field we've ever had in terms of the calibre of the acts then it is safe to say we're in for a tremendous week."
Stoke's Top Talent is a variety competition open to all ages who battle it out for the first prize of £2,000 and a professional contract to appear in The Regent theatre's Christmas panto.
More than 140 acts entered the contest and those were whittled down to a final 50 who will appear, 10 each night, at The Regent theatre next week – ahead of the grand final on Saturday, September 15.
Alongside the 10 finalists put through by the judges will be the act which received the most audience votes during the week and the act which receives most votes in an in-paper and online poll of Sentinel readers.
Sentinel columnist Martin Tideswell said: "Stoke's Top Talent is a fantastic show. It's a tremendous atmosphere and I'd encourage anyone who hasn't seen the show before to come along and support some tremendously talented people from our neck of the woods."
Tickets for the heats, which take place each night from Monday to Friday, September 10 to 14, are priced at just £5 but anyone wishing to watch all five can purchase a discount ticket for the week costing only £15.
Tickets for the final cost £10. Call: 0844 871 7627 or log on to: www.atgtickets.com/venues/regent-theatre.
A special 8-page Stoke's Top Talent preview is inside today's Sentinel.