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Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 11:50 UK
Take That star pens songs for 'UK Fame'

By Frances Cronin
Newsbeat entertainment reporter

ITV have revealed their big drama for autumn and while X Factor continues to win the ratings battles they're hoping we're up for more music, tears and drama with Britannia High.

Cast of Britannia High
Gary Barlow and Mark Owen penned some of the songs for the show

Set in a school for the performing arts, the channel have high hopes for the show which will get a prime time slot at weekends.

They're certainly going all out to ensure it's a success, managing to persuade Gary Barlow to be their musical director and write a number of the songs.

It's the brainchild of Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Philips.

ITV are calling it 'Fame for the 21st Century' but Arlene said it definitely shouldn't be compared to High School Musical, as it's aimed at an older audience.

She said: "This isn't for little children because the stories are quite gripping.

Gritty storylines

"High School Musical is on a simpler level than this."

Each episode focuses on a different member of the school and writers promise quite gritty storylines.

But can it win the ratings battle?

"One can only hope for ratings but one can never know," Arlene added.

We got put in a room with fifty of the best writers and producers in the world and they said, 'Sing for us.'
Georgina Hagen who plays Lauren

"I don't think anyone has seen anything like Britannia High before.

"I think the dramas will wrap you up and pull you in and the dance numbers that are like dance videos will blow you away."

Star help

For the music Gary Barlow wrote tracks alongside a music team including Mark Owen, Guy Chambers and Busted's James Bourne.

They spent two intense weeks in a recording studio song-writing with the young cast.

Georgina Hagen who plays Lauren admits it was daunting.

She said: "We got put in a room with fifty of the best writers and producers in the world and they said, 'Sing for us.'.

"I was like, 'What, you're joking?'.

"The writers and producers would go away in different teams to write tracks bringing them back to the cast who worked till three in the morning on the demos."

Talent search

But after the nerves Georgina said it was surprisingly chilled out.

She said: "First time in the studio I was like, 'Oh my god. What if I don't get this right?'. But if I got something wrong he (Gary Barlow) was like, 'It's fine darling, do it again'."

The cast features six relative unknowns in the lead roles.

Cast of Britannia High
Strictly judge Arlene Philips came up with the idea for the show

They conducted a year-long talent search which included open auditions and trawling stage schools and saw 3,000 wannabes.

One of the cast who has appeared before is Mitch Hewer who plays Danny. He starred as blond-haired Maxxie in Skins.

He gets to act alongside Kimberley and Nicola from Girls Aloud in episode two.

He said:"They were just as frightened as me doing the acting stuff. They were awesome, the scenes were quite dramatic."

'I'd do anything'

Coyote Ugly star Adam Garcia stars as dance teacher Stephan.

Arlene had him in mind for the role as she's worked with him for years.

He said: "That's an enormous honour. I'd do anything for Arlene."

And he admitted he based his role on Arlene.

He added: "She drives you and she will say, 'No you will do it again because I know you can do this'."

There are big ambitions for the drama and the final episode featuring the school's end of term show will actually go out live on TV.

If it's a success they're hoping it will become a live touring show featuring the cast.

A time or day hasn't been fixed for when we get to see it yet but we know it will be on at the weekend and it could go head to head with Strictly Come Dancing

But Arlene isn't comparing them.

She said: "Strictly has just grown so much it's the nation's favourite.

"I can only hope Britannia gets a quarter as much success. I'll be thrilled. This is my creative passion."

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