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Gary Barlow: James Corden suggested me over Lloyd Webber for Finding Neverland

The Take That star was drafted in by Harvey Weinstein to rewrite the songs for the screen-to-stage musical - he reveals all to WhatsOnStage

Gary Barlow with James Corden

James Corden introduced you to Harvey Weinstein - tell us more about that

That's right. I owe him an Evian! What a gig. I think I'll be thanking him for the rest of my life. Obviously I know James quite well and we've always enjoyed each other's company, and he's done me the best favour ever. That's nothing to do with whether the show's successful, I've just had the best two and a half years working on this project.

And you got the gig ahead of Andrew Lloyd Webber?

As I understand it James was shooting the film One Chance and it was the last day of filming, and Harvey told him he was going back to London to fire everybody on this musical. So James asked him who he was going to get instead and Harvey replied that he was going straight to the top - Andrew Lloyd Webber. James said "don't do that" and gave him my name. Harvey didn't know who I was but his wife did, because she's English.

Did you see the original production at Leicester Curve?

I saw a DVD of it, by which stage they'd already moved on from that [version].

So what was the brief from Harvey?

The brief initially was just to write one great song to finish off the show. Maybe it was a ploy, because I thought, 'I can do that'. If he'd asked me then to do the whole show I would've said no, because I've always been led to believe that making a musical takes up so much time. So I sent the song and got a call saying "this is amazing, can you do another one?". So I did another one, which was the title song, and then met Harvey and the director in London and within about two minutes I said "I'm in". The thing about Harvey is that he's a creative, he really gets involved with the storyline and the production. I hadn't appreciated that about him before, and I think it's why he's so successful.

It's obviously a relationship that works because you're now working on another project [rumoured to be a film musical of Around the World in 80 Days]

We are, but we don't know what it's going to be. It might not be a West End or a Broadway thing, it might be bigger [Hollywood]. It's just me and Harvey working on it at the moment, but we've got about six songs and he's written a scratch script for it. But we don't know quite what it is yet.

So you've got the musicals bug?

I've certainly got a whole new respect [for musicals]. When I go to the theatre now I'm so well behaved because I know the effort and the passion and the lengths that people have gone to.

Is it different to writing pop songs?

I don't really think of it like that. I have to give them [the producers] me, and I'm a pop song writer so I'm always going to write in that three-and-a-half minute way. When I hand it in, then we start exploring how it can work with an orchestra, but that initial opening up has to be what I do, otherwise anyone could be doing it.

Would you go on stage yourself in Finding Neverland, as Sting did with The Last Ship?

No, I wouldn't. And the reason is because I can't act. I could sing it, I could do the JM Barrie vocals, but I couldn't act the part, which is a problem. I do try - I'm always singing down [director] Diane Paulus's ear in rehearsals, but she's having none of it! Matthew [Morrison] is absolutely the star of the show.

Finding Neverland starts performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway on 15 March - for more info and tickets visit TheaterMania.com

A compilation album of songs from the show featuring John Legend, Rita Ora, Nick Jonas and Matthew Morrison will be released on 21 April