The year 1993, the countdown to watching Top Of The Pops on a Thursday night was the place to be. BBC 1, 7pm. Take Thats variable sound was holding court at the top of the British music charts. Marketed to the moon. Making for one of the successful British bands of all time.
Tim Firths touching story about the coming of age of a close group of young female friends, each facing their own challenges at home and wondering what the future holds all whilst the band is everything to them. Let it Shine winners, Five to Five. AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sadio Solomon who won their spot on the cast list after winning the national TV talent search contest, take stage presence in and around the girls’ lives. The boyband is interwoven into the narrative by way of performance and song.
Chemistry of friends is established with believable performances by teasing, ribbing and all about the boys (and books) they were girls we all knew in school. Led at the front by Faye Christall as Rachel, whose passion for comedy and clowning is evident. Demure bookworm Zoe portrayed by Lauren Jacobs, brings a wide smile and presence. Sarah Kate Howarth shines as Claire. Katy Clayton brings confidence and great form in her role as gobby manucian Heather. New graduate Rachelle Diedericks really throws herself into her performance as Debbie, not afraid to be the star in future productions. It’s their dream to see their Smash Hits idols.
Tragedy takes an emotional toll and sends the band hurtling in different directions.
25 years later. Rachel Lumberg, as an older unmarried namesake Rachel. With loveable, but bumbling Jeff (Martin Miller) draws the audience in with their character insecurities. Struggling with mundane life, day in day out. Wins a competition to attend the Take That reunion in Prague, revitalized with drive to bring her band back together. Reunited for the love of their favourite boyband. Emily Joyce is brilliant in her comic timings as the grown-up Heather. Bouncing well off a matured mother Zoe (Jane McKenna). Older Claires character performed by Alison Fitzgerald full of bravado, loud and cheeky with a balance of subtle vulnerableness. Dave (Andy Williams), everyone knows a Dave. There are Daves everywhere from Manchester to Prague. To tell any more of the story full of misadventure and heartwarming full circle charm would lead to spoiler territory.
Five to Five, take an important if also an invisible role on stage. Centrally important to the plot progression with lyrics sung live whilst performing the tasks of stage transitions. Fulfilling roles from air stewards to bus passengers, they are present throughout without intruding. Ingenious direction from Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder.
The set was a well-organized machine, there’s a lot of movement with a surprising use of pyrotechnics. The stunning aeroplane first act finale was very impressive with a wow factor punch! Costumes were fantastic.
Having a stage production with the music of Take That, can lead to the assumption that The Band is a homage, a “tribute” to the successful boy bands career, was the rumblings of the audience pre-show chatter. Instead, the music is the journey of these charming friends, a heartwarming clinic in great storytelling delivered with great performances from the entire cast.
Powerfully you could see the story resonated with so many of the audience. They came in their own ‘bands’. Mirroring the on-stage characters, this was also the story of their life. That it left many in tears of equal reflection and wondrous joy.
Thoroughly enjoyable. Brought the crowd rising from their seats in the finale.
The Band is the hottest show in town, running at the Theatre Royal from 12th June to the 23rd June 2018. Be sure to book as its selling out!
Humorous comments overheard. Emily Joyce earned a comment uttered behind me in the stalls, A man said ‘She’d make a great Helen Mirren. ’
‘Just ‘cos you wanna see her naked. Now shur’ up!’
A particular aeroplane sequence yielded a comment of ‘They’ll do Flying without wings, knew they’d leave it til last.’
Followed by someone in sharp response ‘That was boyzone! You numpty!’