John Barrowman is an Entertainer with a capital E. He sings, he dances, he acts, he presents, he judges – he is a unique talent in the British entertainment industry.
Born on 11 March 1967 in Glasgow, where he spent his early years, John moved with his family to Illinois in the United States and later studied Musical Theatre at the US International University in San Diego, California.
In 1989, while in the UK to study Shakespeare as part of his university course, he landed his first professional role starring as Billy Crocker opposite Elaine Paige in the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. Since then, John’s career as a leading man in musical theatre has seen him star in many West End shows, including Matador, Miss Saigon, The Phantom Of The Opera, and Sunset Boulevard. He also reprised the role of Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway. Sam Mendes’ premiere production of The Fix at the Donmar Warehouse garnered John an Olivier Award nomination as “Best Actor in a Musical”, and in 2002 he returned to the role of Billy Crocker for the hugely successful National Theatre revival of Anything Goes.
He appeared in the West End most recently as Albin/Zaza in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s award-winning production of La Cage Aux Folles, performing to full houses for nine weeks in 2009. This role won John the 2010 What’s On Stage award for “Best Take-over in a Role”.
John has also made his name in American television drama, playing Peter Williams in the Aaron Spelling series Titans for NBC and starring in Darren Star’s Central Park West for CBS. He returned to US television in Spring 2010 with a five-episode guest-starring role on ABC’s Desperate Housewives. He also had a guest-starring role as a political fixer in the ABC series, Scandal. He played Dark Archer Malcolm Merlyn in The CW network’s hit series Arrow, based on the Green Arrow comic books. At the end of 2018, he battled snakes and crocodiles in the Australian rain forest in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, surviving all the way to the final day.
His most famous television role is undoubtedly that of sci-fi hero Captain Jack Harkness, whose first appearance in the revamped Doctor Who created such an impact that he was given his own spin off series, Torchwood. The show achieved the best viewing figures ever on BBC America and has been broadcast around the world. For the fourth series, titled Torchwood: Miracle Day, the BBC teamed up with the US Starz Channel, filming in Wales and the US. The show aired on the Starz Channel and BBC One from July 2011.
On the big screen, John has appeared as the Lead Tenor in The Producers, as Jack in the Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely and starred in cult classic Megalodon: Shark Attack 3. He had a supporting role in the Oscar-winning film Zero Dark Thirty, and appeared in Vertigo Films’ All Stars, both released in 2013.
Alongside his acting career, John has also hosted his own primetime Saturday night BBC1 entertainment show, Tonight’s The Night, a co-production between the BBC and Barrowman Barker Productions, in which he makes people’s performance dreams come true.
Other shows he has presented include The Kids Are All Right, BBC’s Live and Kicking, and Children in Need for BBC Wales in 2008 and for BBC Scotland in 2010. He hosted the children’s show, Animals At Work for CBBC and Channel 4’s Superstar Dogs: Countdown to Crufts, which saw dogs and their owners competing in agility and obedience tests to win a place at Crufts. He also presented two series of BBC1’s high-tech quiz show, Pressure Pad and a documentary series on the work of the Glasgow Veterinary University for Channel 4. In 2008, John was the subject of a BBC documentary, The Making of Me, in which he underwent tests and researched the science of homosexuality.
In the US, he presented Keys to the Castle for HGTV and celebrity singing competition, Sing Your Face Off.
John was a judge on BBC1’s Saturday night shows searching for new West End stars (How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do and I’d Do Anything), competed in celebrity skating show, Dancing on Ice, stood in to present Elaine Paige’s BBC Radio 2 show and has guested on numerous television chat and panel shows. On Christmas Day 2010, he was one of five celebrities competing to win the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, partnering Kristina Rihanoff to victory with a sparkling quickstep. John will join the judging panel for the new season of Dancing on Ice, airing from January 2020 on ITV.
John embarked on his third concert tourin October 2010 to promote his self-titled album “John Barrowman”, his third solo CD with Sony following on from 2008’s Another Side (which brought John a Gold Disc) and Music Music Music in 2009. He toured the UK and Ireland again in October and November 2011 to promote his CD, The Very Best of John Barrowman, which was released on 5 September 2011. In June 2012, he performed at open-air concerts in Scarborough and Glasgow, and at the Hampton Court Palace Festival.
John’s 2014 album, You Raise Me Up, was funded by his fans through PledgeMusic’s Direct to Fan platform. The album was entered the UK charts at number 16. John toured the UK in 2015. In January 2018, he performed his first concert in Australia to a full house at the Melbourne Arts Centre and returned to Australia to perform at the QPAC in Brisbane in September 2019. He toured the UK again in the summer of 2019, on his Fabulous tour and followed up with his Fabulous Christmas tour in conjunction with the launch of his long-awaited album of Christmas songs, released on 6 December 2019.
John will release a new album of musical theatre songs on 11 November 2022. Centre State features some of John’s favourite songs. The single, Heart of Stone (from hit musical Six), a duet with Natalie Paris, will be released on 21 October 2022. The album release will be followed by John’s I Am What I Am UK Tour in February 2023.
John has starred in panto in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow, where he headlined the SECC’s shows at the Clyde Auditorium for five hugely successful seasons. John returned to the Birmingham Hippodrome as Dick Whittington in 2016. He reprised the role of Dick at the Manchester Opera House for the 2017-18 panto season.
In collaboration with his sister Carole, John has released two volumes of his autobiography, Anything Goes and I Am What I Am, published by Michael O’Mara Books. Anything Goes reached number 2 in the Sunday Times bestsellers’ list and remained in the list for twelve weeks. A sci-fi/fantasy series of three novels for young adults, Hollow Earth, co-authored by John and Carole, was launched in 2012 by Buster Books. John and Carole were subsequently commissioned by Head of Zeus Publishing to write a further three novels featuring the Animare twins, Matt and Em Calder. The first of these, Conjuror, was published on 5 May 2016 and quickly reached number 7 in the YA book charts. They have also collaborated on a Torchwood novel, Exodus Code, a Torchwood comic book series featuring Captain Jack, and a Dark Archer comic series about John’s Arrow character, Malcolm Merlyn. John and Carole’s latest release is a graphic novel, Acursian, available via Webtoons. For more information on John and Carole’s joint projects, visit barrowmanbooks.com
In HM The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2014, John was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to entertainment and to charity. More honours came in July 2014, when John was one of the Queen’s Baton Bearers and performed the opening number of the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, which was broadcast on BBC1 and across 53 Commonwealth countries.
John’s multiple talents continue to delight audiences whether members of the Royal Family at the Royal Variety Performance, full houses at his pantos and concert tours, sci-fi fans or Saturday night TV viewers. As he says in closing his first book:
“My show’s not over. Stay in your seats. This is only the intermission.”