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John Barrowman: “Our decorations are quite restrained at Christmas – just two trees and a nativity set you can see from space”

John Barrowman.
John Barrowman.

Filled with glitz and glamour, music and magic, Christmas is, unsurprisingly, John Barrowman’s favourite time of the year.

And this December, the 52-year-old actor, singer and presenter extraordinaire, is coming home for the holidays, bringing a new festive musical show to Glasgow as part of an eight-date run.

John, who was born in Scotland before moving to America aged eight, says his Christmas tour, and the supporting album, A Fabulous Christmas, has been a long time in the making, after his love of all things yuletide was sparked while attending church as a child.

However, a difficult relationship with his faith in later life led him to move away from the traditional carols and hymns – until now.

“I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas-themed album. If I can quote a song from the album, it really is the most wonderful time of year,” he explained.

“I grew up being involved with the church, going there for Sunday school and every Christmas Eve, and I loved the music I used to hear. But as I grew up and grew older, I started to realise that I wasn’t as accepted within those situations and certain groups because I was a gay man, who was open and part of the LGBTQ community. I feel like I stepped away from it.

“So, this Christmas album is my chance to claim it back. I want the music to feel inclusive to people, and for them to feel they can still celebrate at home even if they don’t feel like they can go to those places.”

Filled with festive classics such as It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year and Silent Night, the album also features more traditional carols, which John has remixed for a new audience.

John added: “One of my favourite songs on the album is a Scottish hymn called Be Thy My Vision, which I have mixed up with Away In A Manger. It’s hard to sing because it just brings back all those memories of the community spirit of the church.

“My love of music started from listening to hymns at a church in East Kilbride, so it’s a really emotional and important album for me, and I hope people get that from it when they listen.”

Having spent many happy Christmases celebrating with his family in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, John is looking forward to swapping his home in Palm Springs, Florida, for some good, old-fashioned Scottish hospitality, bringing his husband, Scott, along for the ride.

But that doesn’t mean their decorations will be left in boxes while they travel.

He explained: “Every year our house is decorated to a tee. I have two different Christmas trees inside, one with American, Scottish, English and Welsh decorations all over, and another covered in lights and glitter. And we put another outside, decorated with giant balls and baubles, as well as a huge wreath for the wrong door.

“We live near the airport and people often joke that the planes will land on our house because we have so many lights!

“This year I’ve even got a nativity set that’s going on the roof, so if you’re on the right-hand-side of a plane flying over Palm Springs, you’ll be able to look down and see it!”

The year has been filled with special celebrations for John, as 2019 marks 30 years since he began on stage and screen, with some of his most memorable roles including fan-favourite Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who, Albin/Zaza in a West End production of La Cage Aux Folles, and presenting BBC show Tonight’s The Night.

Despite treading the boards, learning lines and appearing in front of huge crowds for three decades, John admits he still feels nervous before a big performance, which will certainly be the case when he comes to Glasgow’s SEC on December 1.

He said: “I still get butterflies, I still get excited, and the day I don’t is the day I quit.

“One of the things that I learned over the years is to put my own self into the performance, rather than always pretending to play a character.

“And I think that’s why audiences have followed me from the theatre to TV, and to all the different characters I have played.

“I started work in 1989, and I haven’t stopped since. I’m so lucky to be able to say that. I owe a great deal to my audience and fans, and I want to celebrate with them.”

He added: “My grandparents used to always say, ‘Son, never forget where you came from.’ And that’s what I’ve always done. It keeps my feet firmly planted on the ground.”

John Barrowman releases A Fabulous Christmas on November 29 on Decca Records. John plays the SEC in Glasgow on Sunday, December 1