GARETH Gates has come a long way since the former Bradford Cathedral choirboy walked into a Pop Idol audition back in 2001.

The show catapulted him to fame, and he went on to sell more than 3.5 million records in the UK, including four Number 1 singles and three albums. His version of Unchained Melody sold over a million copies in the UK.

Gareth has since carved a successful career in musical theatre, taking on lead roles in shows such as Les Miserables, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Loserville and Legally Blonde, and last year he was back on home turf, playing the comedy role of Willard in Footloose at the Alhambra. This Christmas Gareth stars in Jack and the Beanstalk at Wolverhampton.

Earlier this year Gareth joined singers Duncan James, Jon Lee, Ritchie Neville and Ben Ofoedu in Boys Allowed, a spoof boy band appearing on BBC1's Let’s Sing and Dance for Comic Relief.

And last year the singer found time to launch his own range of herbal tea, following an idea he had while taking time out to recover from a vocal injury. Forced to rest his voice, he came up with a brand of coconut tea, Cuppanut, which hit the shelves in health food stores.

Now he's back on the road doing what is closest to his heart - singing to an audience. Gareth will be at Cleckheaton Town Hall on Sunday with his Live and Acoustic gig, stripping back the hits and other crowd-pleasers.

"I’m thrilled to be back in in the district, performing in front of my home crowd," says Gareth. "I’ll be doing an acoustic set, featuring some of my old hits, new songs and songs that get people up on their feet dancing!

"I’m currently on tour with Footloose The Musical - it’s a great show. When I was asked to do this show in Cleckheaton, I jumped at the chance. I get to see my family, and my home crowd."

When Gareth captured the nation's hearts on Pop Idol he was a shy 17-year-old struggling with a stammer. Now a father in his thirties, he's a confident, accomplished performer, and has managed to control the speech impediment he had since childhood, thanks to the McGuire speech therapy programme. He has made a documentary highlighting the struggles a stammer brings, and has also trained as a McGuire technique instructor.

“Keeping healthy helps, you have to look after yourself on tour,” he says. "I love doing musical theatre. Willard was my first comedy role - I’m usually the handsome lead or pantomime prince so it was a new direction for me and I loved it.

"It was great to be at the Alhambra too; it was where I made my first stage appearance, aged five, as one of the King’s children in The King and I. It gave me the performing bug.

“When I was eight I played Joseph in Joseph at primary school. That’s when I first started to sing.”

And he's never looked back!

* Gareth Gates is at Cleckheaton Town Hall on Sunday. For tickets call (01484) 225755 or visit