Touring – reviewed at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Guest reviewer: Cathy Doust
Set in 1992, a group of 16-year-old friends take us on a journey. It’s a journey of the realisation of unfulfilled dreams and ultimately, the malleable lives we all lead where decisions dictate the paths on which we climb. Drawn together with their passion for ‘The Band’, played by AJ, Nick, Curtis, Yazdan and Sario, winners of the TV competition ‘Let it Shine’, the story is one of friendship splintered by a tragedy which dampens their fervour for life. Hidden emotions re-surface when the friends meet again, 25 years later and finally lay the past to rest.
Written by Tim Firth, the show is teeming with Take That hits and bursting with energetic dance routines. The authentic era staging, from a huge Teletext screen showing the Top 40 with Take That’s ‘Pray’ topping the chart, down to references of Smash Hits and Top of the Pops, catapulted you back to your teenage bedroom, singing into your hairbrush with protestations of undying love for your pop icon. The transformational sets were utterly seamless and with ethereal lighting, the time travel was complete.
One aspect conveyed with crystal clearness was the camaraderie, the passion and the fun being experienced by each and every cast member. For this reason, it is difficult to select stand-out performances, but for me, Faye Christall as young Rachel expressed a raw vulnerability and a magnetic stage presence and Sarah Kate Howarth as young Claire, exuded exquisite comic timing. The three young girls singing the introduction of ‘Never Forget’ was haunting and the overwhelming emotions evoked during ‘A Million Love Songs’ simply took my breath away. Rachel Lumberg as adult Rachel and Alison Fitzjohn as adult Claire are also worthy of a mention, both emanating the same passions as their young counterparts, but etched with a worldliness, carved from experience.
Five to Five, with their raw talent transmitting an appealing vulnerability, far removed from stage school performances, which was both refreshing and beguiling. AJ and Curtis’ strong vocals stood out, with all the boy’s replication of huge iconic Take That songs either close copies or versions slightly different enough to be edgy.
As if the evening could have got any better, the unexpected appearance of Mark Owen, closely followed by Gary Barlow and Howard Donald, sealed the deal. The audience went wild as Take That performed a medley and it was utterly impossible not to dance in the aisles and wave your arms in the air. The Band is at The Mayflower Theatre Southampton until Saturday 4th November and then continuing to tour.
A decadent night of self-indulgence into an era of infamous pop icons, unrealised teenage dreams and soul-searching.
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