Touring – reviewed at The Lowry, Salford
Guest reviewer: Victoria Guest
The Band is not just a musical for Take That groupies – it’s a musical for anybody who grew up with a boyband. This is a musical which celebrates the music of Take That and so much more besides. Littered with warm nostalgia from the outset – fond memories of Top of The Pops, reading your weekly issues of Smash Hits and the days when we covered every inch of our bedroom wall in posters.
The play tells the story of five friends. We are first introduced to them as teenagers in 1992 before the fast forward button is pressed and we see them reunited as 40-something women desperate to rekindle the feelings of their youth.
The show opens with a teenage Rachel (Faye Christall) setting the scene for her love of The Band. It’s as if through listening to their music The Band really come to life in her bedroom as she gets ready for school. Her older self, played by Rachel Lumberg, looks on fondly as she remembers her youth.
Packed with stellar performances from all of the characters from both eras. And perhaps what is most striking to me, is that these characters are completely accessible as real women. Heather as a teenage rebel (Katy Clayton) contests to shock her friends with the biggest revelation as her older self (Emily Joyce) 25 years later. The super fit could-be Olympic diver, Claire (Sarah Kate Howarth) has to face her pals years later, after an unhealthy relationship with food.
The Band, played by A J Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, Yazdan Qafouri and Harry Fabulous Brown, sparkle in every scene that they are in. With their stunning harmonies, they do not detract from the narrative but fully showcase the wonderful soundtrack and celebrate the music of Take That.
Jon Bausor’s stage design is phenomenal – the transition between the two eras is the slickest that I have ever seen. Complete with pyrotechnics, Relight My Fire is a real showstopper when we see the girl’s bus ride home spectacularly transform into a raging chariot. The whole theatre singing the words to the Take That floor-filler, the atmosphere electric.
Ultimately it is the memorable and loveable female characters that shine on stage – the music just makes them sparkle even brighter.
The Band is a complete triumph. This musical is really very special and the standing ovations at the end of the performance, on the night I attended, were well deserved and the ultimate testament to the success of the show.
The Band runs at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday 26th January.
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