Rachel Lumberg is an award-winning actress who has been in a whole host of shows from The Full Monty to Romeo and Juliet. She’s currently starring as Rachel in the UK tour of The Band. She sat down with me to discuss everything about the show. It’s a fairly long but super interesting interview so grab a cuppa and settle down…
Have you always wanted to be a performer? Did you have any random childhood ambitions?
I did have random dreams – I wanted to be a nurse! You know so many of us had those dress-up nurses’ outfits when we were little. I also went into fashion at school when we took our options but it just didn’t appeal to me. I’d always loved drama but didn’t really know what area to be involved in. So I started the fashion course but it wasn’t really working for me. So I went to our head of year and said I’d like to do drama, and she let me change. So ever since then ( I would’ve been 14) I’ve been doing this.
It was actually the film-maker, John Hughes – who made the likes of Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club – who I was a huge fan of growing up, who got me very interested in film. Then when I changed to the drama option at school and we started going to the theatre a lot I discovered that this is my love.
Could you explain a little about The Band and how your character Rachel fits into it?
Rachel is the driving force in bringing the girls back together again. She is the protagonist of the story really. She opens the show with a memory. She begins by telling the audience how she grew up with a boy band and then ‘boom’ we’re immediately transported back to my bedroom, my younger self (played utterly superbly by Faye Christall) and the incredible tunes of a certain boy band of 1993. It’s a double denim feast for your eyes!!
You then meet all of Rachel’s friends. Each as loyal to each other and to the band as the next one. They get to see the boys ‘live in concert’ and then on the way home from the gig, tragedy strikes which changes the girls’ lives dramatically.
Fast forward 25 years and here we see Rachel again pretty much living the life she dreamt off… or is she? She hasn’t seen her school friends for all that time, yet she enters and wins a competition to go and see the boys live again on their reunion tour. Is this the time to maybe have a reunion of her own? Well, you’ll have to come and see the show to find that out.
Tim Firth has written a beautiful story of friendship and the love and influences that come with that. Add to that the stunning music of Take That and how could you not want to come and see it?
What attracted you to show? Other than your name, are you and Rachel alike in any way?I’ve known Tim [Firth] for a very long time, almost 10 years, as well as David [Pugh] and Dafydd [Rogers], this is my second show with all of them and they’re absolutely wonderful.
Rachel and I are alike. Our producers David and Dafydd always said that she’s called Rachel for a reason which is incredibly flattering. Rachel has comedy and is very caring and fiercely loyal. Simple things, the love of her family and friends and their happiness are of utmost importance to her.. so there are definitely similarities between her and myself.
More so I think with lovely Faye [Christall] who plays 16 year old me; it’s weird seeing someone play you! We spent a lot of time together watching each other and watching out for the little habits we all have to make sure it seems truthful that we’re the same person.
My mum came to see the show on press night and she said “that is her, that’s Rachel at that age”… It’s quite frightening! So I think both Faye and I are quite similar to each other and to Rachel.
The show focusses on how music influences our lives. Which musicians have inspired you?I’m a bit of an all-rounder really. I’m one of those people that if I like a song, I like it! I was a fan of Take That, I wasn’t necessarily hardened but I was a fan of them. I’m a big fan of Duran Duran, and Spandau Ballet- they were more my era ’cause I’m a little bit older than Rachel.
My huge influence growing up was more 60s because of my mum and dad. It was the likes of Gerry and the Pacemakers, Fats Domino all of that kind of music that my parents had on in the background.
On my wall were actors mainly, not musicians. There was James Dean, of course; it was mainly theatre and film actors that influenced my teenage years. Then when I got older, and absolutely when Take That reformed, I really, really enjoyed their music and I went to see them before I was ever involved in this!
Besides yourself, which actor in the production is going to blow people away?You know I think most people that come, leave thinking “I was not expecting that” so it’s the show that blows people away. A lot of people of course, are expecting the story of Take That but it isn’t that, and that is absolutely not what they wanted. This show is a thank you to their fans for 25 years of loyalty. They were trying to find a way to do that, they always wanted Tim [Firth] to do it and they managed to.
The boys are phenomenal. There’s always been the “oh they got them off a telly show”, but they absolutely blow you away. The young girls are phenomenal, the older women, you know, everybody stands out in this.
It would be unfair to say one person because it’s very much an ensemble piece and we all bring something incredibly special to the table. Lets also not forget our crew who are unbelievable in how they put the show together and we have a live band who are so unbelievable. So it’s absolutely a team effort! The work and skill and talent of each cast, crew member, band member and creative departments blows me away.. This is an ensemble piece of theatre. It wouldn’t work without each other.
What have people been saying as they leave the theatre?What we’ve found is: “wow”,”wasn’t expecting that”, “you’ve relived my youth for me”, “I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve danced, I’ve clapped”, “I want to see it again”. I’ve never really been in a show where we’ve had people see it more than once. We’ve got people on their 14th and 15th time, it’s incredible how they come back.
As an actor you play to your crowd but it’s also important that the audience listen and I’ve found that they really listen with this show. You can absolutely hear the listening. Some theatres are a little bit rowdier than others, especially on a Friday and Saturday but it’s one of those shows that people are coming out of and booking more tickets straight away. So that’s a huge compliment to us.
Also, the majority of the audience are in their forties because they grew up with Take That but they’re bringing their children and their partners and their mums and dads so it’s lovely. The other day there was a lady in the grand circle in her seventies who came out of her seat and she had her arms in the air like everybody else and that’s exactly what it’s about! Older women have also contacted us to say that we’re telling their story, we didn’t expect that and the contact we’ve had from them has been incredible and very heartwarming.
I would love to watch our show (with me in) to see and realise truly the effect it has.
If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next?It would be one that I’ve already done and left actually, one of Tim’s other shows and hopefully timing will let me do it again and that’s This Is My Family. I do still have many roles i’d love to play that remain un-ticked on my bucket list. Some I am now too old to play and therefore will have to remain on the list, and some I’m (surprisingly) still too young to play.. so I live in hope!!
My casting bracket and skill set allows for character roles and I adore these. Complex characters that come with comedy and pathos that an audience member can relate wholeheartedly to… more characters similar to Rachel in The Band, I suppose. But above all, I just want to continue to work at the what I simply adore doing, and that is being out there, on stage, for you guys, 8 shows a week, for as long as I can and as long as audiences want to see me… I truly love my job!
If you could travel back to any era, when would you go to and why?ohhhhh interesting! I would go back… to the 40s and 50s. Mainly for the beautiful costumes! And the incredible music! There’s a tv series called A Place to Call Home that’s set in the 50s, it’s so beautifully designed and the costumes and cars are so fabulous. I’m just like “yes please, I would like that!”
Finally, what’s your best piece of advice for aspiring performers?Always put money away for tax! Always take a percentage of your salary each week and put it into an account you can’t touch and then you won’t be hit with anything you’re not prepared for!
I wholly believe that if your heart says you want to do it then do it. It’s not an easy career, I mean, for me to be in this envious position of having a role written with me in mind to play it, has taken 28 years, so I can only say to anyone: stick at it and always follow your dreams. If you don’t follow them, someone else will!!
Keep at it, you’ll get there; there might be different routes you have to take but don’t ever take it personally. When you get a no, just move on, it’s rarely personal. It’s very rarely to do with your own skill and talent, it’s just that you’re not right.
But if you have a dream, follow it, do your best and put money aside for tax!
A massive thank you to Rachel for taking the time to do this interview. The Band is country touring round the country, tour dates and ticket information can be found here.
Interview by Editor, Olivia Mitchell
photo credit: Matt Crockett