'The Band' Musical Review

Take That are probably the biggest boyband from the nineties, shooting to fame with their daring fashion, cheesy dance moves and timeless songs - so it’s no wonder that their new musical, The Band, is excelling in ticket sales, with many fans eager to see how their favourite teenage to modern day tunes are portrayed.
In yet another scripting masterpiece from Tim Firth, The Band is not a tale of Take That, but instead, a highly intelligent and emotive story set between two concerts 25 years apart, and a group of five friends, who tragically become four, and the way in which music has shaped their lives.

Tim Firth features all the hits of Take That, in ways I did not expect or imagine, and uses the songs as a way to enrich the storyline, as opposed to just cram them in for the sake of it. The show is instantly relatable for music lovers of any music taste and age, embracing the theme of musical idols as well as those of friendship, ageing and loss. Featuring realistic humour, perfectly executed by the small yet extremely talented cast, Firth captures a highly voyeuristic style of show, leaving behind the musical stereotype of being larger than life, and instead focusing on the everyday smiles and struggles that everyone has to face.

Of course, music is something that I am obliged to mention, and I loved the way the pop classics were given a whole new depth and meaning within the show and story, ‘Back for Good’ changed from a love song to an emotional duet between our four main, modern-day leads and their younger selves. ‘The Garden’, which was one of my favourite performances within the show, became the soundtrack of an internal voice within Rachel’s head, as she questions her life and the choices she has made to date. One thing I do really appreciate within the show, is the fact that many of the songs had the Take That and 90’s pop glamour stripped away from them, leaving them to sound genuine and sincere within the narrative, and on many occassions, like you are hearing them for the first time.

Highly talented musicians, consisting of John Donovan (MD and Keyboard), Richard Beesley (Saxophone and Keyboard), Tim Sandiford (Guitar and Acoustic Guitar), Stu Roberts (Drums) and John McKenzie (Bass) all did a fantastic job, leaving me, for the most part, thinking that the show was using backing tracks due to the flawless instrumental work. Personally, I would have loved for them to have remained on stage throughout the entirety of the show, as I felt that the times they were visible added to the realistic nature, and fit in well this the way that The Band was presented; however, the quick set changes are likely to have made this highly difficult.

As for the cast - every single one of them did a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life in a naturalistic manner. The younger versions of the characters were portrayed with skill and confidence, with each actress adding their own uniqueness to their role, and although they were playing rather stereotypical characters, they created a strong sense of realism and relatability.

Faye Christall took on the role of young Rachel, whose character was probably the most relatable to me in all of the best ways. From her reaction to The Band starring on Top of the Pops, to her excitably quick talking, Faye did a fantastic job portraying the character in a truly genuine manner. Sarah Kate Howarth took on the role of young Claire, with everything from her look to body language encapsulating an aspiring teenage swimmer. Zoe (Lauren Jacobs) and Heather (Katy Clayton) had fantastic comedic timing with one another, and conflicted in ways that caused the whole audience to laugh. Debbie was played by Rachelle Diedericks, who shone with a huge personality, as well as talent throughout her role. All five of these actresses were incredible, from characterisation to vocals, dancing to comedic timing - I’m sure this will be just one of the many shows they will feature in the near future, and each of them really do deserve to go far within the industry.

One element I did find within the show to be fascinating was the incredible casting (Marc Frankum), and how much the older and younger versions of characters look alike. Usually, I would review each of the main cast members separately; however, the older versions of the girls all did a fantastic job. Rachel Lumberg (Rachel), Alison Fitzjohn (Claire), Emily Joyce (Heather) and Jayne Mckenna (Zoe) encapsulated a true air of friendship, with each of them acting and reacting perfectly with one another. The four of them are fun, fierce and all round fantastic, delivering both humorous and sad moments of the show perfectly. On top of this, each of them have fantastic voices, suited well for their characters, and as a whole, fully brought the show to life.   

Andy Williams, who played Every Dave had fantastic comedic timing, and incredible characterisation for each of his separate roles. From the second he stepped on stage, the audience filled with laughter, and part of me wishes that he could appear on stage more. Similarly, Martin Miller did an incredible job of portraying Greg, Rachel’s husband, with a perfect exaggerated naturalism. We do not see too much of Greg, but when we do, Miller shone within the role.

Now last, but by no means least, The Band. Consisting of ‘Let it Shine’ winners; AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Jones, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon. Obviously these guys were bound to be good; however, their performances completely blew my mind, as their talents have grown and developed so much in just this short time from the start of the series. Not only was their singing and dancing at a high level, but their overall presence and even background acting was on par with theatre school professionals, and they really did fit the boy band role. There is clearly a lot of pressure on anyone who takes on the Take That classics, yet these five did a superb job, and added their own signature to the performance, ensuring that they would not just been seen as a gimmick as such. It was a great, high energy job by all.

Although the small cast did an incredible job of filling the Mayflower stage, their work would have been for nothing if it wasn’t for the fantastic group of creatives who truly pulled the show together.

With the direction of Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder, there is no wonder that the show encapsulates all of the best-loved features of a Take That gig. From breaking the fourth wall to the concept of integrating the band within the set - there are some highly intelligent theatrical techniques within the show, all of which really bring the visual spectacular to life.

Jon Bausor’s set helped with all transitions and played up to the expectations of Take That fans from their live shows. From live arenas to the top of a hill, from house to an aeroplane, each scene is well thought through, beautifully designed and highly effective, allowing the cast to flawlessly move between scenes undetected. For such a simple array of props, the staging as a whole is creatively genius, and  Patrick Woodroffe’s beautiful lighting allows the show to truly encapsulate the feeling of all locations.

On top of this, the choice of costumes, for the Band in particular, were an incredible nod to Take That, but with a modernised twist - similar to Kim Gavin’s fantastic choreography. From acrobatics to seamless synchronisation, as well as the perfected homage to The Flood album cover, this show really packs a punch when it comes to dance and movement.

Overall, The Band is a faultless blend of warmth, humour, heartbreak and bittersweet nostalgia. There is so much more I want to say about this show, and it’s deeply frustrating trying to keep it quiet to ensure I do not ruin its tricks and surprises in any way. The only thing I can now say is that if you get the opportunity to see this show, then take it. Whether you are a Take That fan or not, 40 years old or 20, there really is something for everyone, and you will be mad to miss it.

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