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Audio Book Review

Book Cover

Anything Goes
The Autobiography of John Barrowman


Author: John Barrowman with Carole E. Barrowman
Read by: John Barrowman
BBC Audio
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 68809 3
Available 04 February 2008

Leading man. Cult hero. Debonair judge. Show-stopping singer. The many talents of John Barrowman have entertained the world for almost two decades - but what's the real story behind that dazzling smile?...

Anything Goes is an abridged reading of the autobiography of John Barrowman, star of Doctor Who and its spin-off series Torchwood, judge on BBC1's talent shows - How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? and Any Dream Will Do, and all-round star of stage and screen.

This audio book is read by Barrowman, who tends to trip over his own words a little too often, and traces his life from his Glaswegian childhood and American adolescence. It examines his first big break (In Anything Goes opposite theatre legend Elaine Paige), his West End achievement, his move into American television, his appearance in films such as De-Lovely and The Producer; and his current mainstream appeal in the Doctor Who universe.

Let's be frank, this CD was released for one reason only - that Barrowman has found a new fanbase amongst the Doctor Who fraternity. I doubt there's a market amongst lovers of musical theatre for autobiographies of performers they've seen who haven't yet advanced from the giddy heights of D-list celebrity status - but I could be wrong.

This CD is well structured, starting with the obvious hook - his time on Doctor Who - and moving backwards and forwards through his life.

He starts of joyfully telling us how much of a huge Who fan he was growing up, but I was unsure as too how much of a fan he really was. He throws in a few names of Who monsters with all the grace of someone who's spent 10 minutes doing research on the Internet. He also talks about his love of Star Wars and how he collected all the toys and even claims to have had a full size Taun-Taun. Really? A full size monster from The Empire Strikes Back? Maybe he really did have a huge bedroom with an 8ft tall kangaroo teddy crammed into it... Or it could be a convenient shoehorn to slip in his story about meeting George Lucas. Well, I say "story"... It's not so much a story, more of: "I met George Lucas, once."

There's a little bit too much bitterness in some of Barrowman's recollections, which makes him come across as someone who is trying to prove something to people he claims he no longer cares about. The most obvious example is that of Peter Prick (Barrowman's obviously not trying to protect the man he so obviously still loathes, so why change his name? Is there a change that he's not telling the whole truth?)

I have to say that Barrowman doesn't do a very good job of painting Peter as the evil, jealous character he is so desperate to have us believe he was. He goes on and on about how jealous and bitter Peter was, but doesn't give any real examples. And in the only encounters he does give, he makes Peter sound like a normal human being, while Barrowman comes off as a spoilt, childish little non-achiever who likes to gloat now he's made a name for himself.

This is taken to epic proportions when Peter and he, by chance, both appear in The Producers. Barrowman takes great pleasure in rubbing Peter's face in the fact he's got a starring part... as the lead tenor. Starring part? Did he mean the blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance he made?

There's also another instance where Barrowman bumps into Peter and they make up and go out to diner - but Barrowman claims that Peter was so jealous that he felt like he was sat at a table for three, with Peter's jealousy taking up the third seat. Hmm more like Barrowman's ego. It's odd, but In the re-telling Peter sounds fine and Barrowman sounds like an arse.

Then there's the segment where he states: "I'm a nightmare to be around if I don't get to do all the things I want to". Or what about the fact that he complains that the producers on Live & Kicking didn't respect him. Respect has to be earned, a fact Barrowman seems not to realise.

There's also a few too many embarrassing, and unnecessary, moments that show Barrowman up to be a bit of a manipulating individual. The obviously fake break in his voice and audible sigh, as he talks about the last time he spoke to the dying sister of his partner, is almost too much to stomach.

He also, almost matter-of-factly, talks about the lie he was living with his girlfriend while he was off sleeping with other men. Is this the same Barrowman who has been so vocal in his condemnation of homosexual actors who refuse to come out of the closet for fear of how it will affect their careers? The guy cheated on his girlfriend with other men when he knew he had no interested in women and yet seems to show no remorse at all. In fact he was relieved when he discovered that she had worked it out before he got a chance to tell her.

Obviously this release is only going to appeal to Barrowman's fans who want to learn a little more about him. But be warned, finding out that someone who hasn't really reached the ranks of C-list celebrity status yet has somehow managed to acquire the ego of an A-lister is a little unattractive.


Darren Rea

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