‘Best new musical to hit theatres in years’: THE BAND – Touring ★★★★★

In Musicals, Opinion, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland, Touring by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

Touring – reviewed at Edinburgh Playhouse
Guest reviewer: Sarah Moyes

Heart-warming and bursting with pop songs, The Band perfectly captures teenage fandom as Take That’s songs shine in this brand new musical at the Playhouse this week.

A lot of bands have tried to make the transition into theatre through jukebox musicals. Some have been hugely successful, think Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You. Others like the ill-fated Spice Girls musical Viva Forever crashed and burned. But there is a reason why The Band is the fastest-selling musical theatre tour of all time.

Tim Firth’s story isn’t the story of Take That, instead it follows a group of 16-year-old girls in Manchester in 1992 – Rachel (Faye Christall), Debbie (Rachelle Diedericks), Claire (Sarah Kate Howarth), Zoe (Lauren Jacobs) and Heather (Katy Clayton) – who would do anything for their idols in “the band”.

The first part of the show follows the teenagers as they excitedly arrive at school following a performance from their favourite boy band on Top of The Pops, before skipping the afternoon classes to get ready to see their idols in concert.

However, the night ends in tragedy for Debbie, and the girls go their separate ways. The younger girls all give energetic performances that any girl who grew up loving boy bands would identify with the audience laughing in one scene and close to tears in the next.

Fans of the BBC TV show Let it Shine will recognise winners Five to Five – AJ, Curtis, Sario, Nick and Yazdan – star as “the band”, who are cleverly integrated into the show. At some points, they perform with the high-energy dance moves of early Take That and at others, they’re airport workers or statues that come to life in a fountain.

Humour

It works really well and keeps the audience on their toes adding humour to performances which could end up being a bit generic if they all just mirrored live shows.

Sario Solomon, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and AJ Bentley in The Band. Pic Matt Crockett

The second part of the story follows the women as they meet twenty five years later for a trip to Prague to once again see their favourite band – and a lot has changed.

Rachel (Rachel Lumberg), hasn’t fulfilled her dream of getting married because she didn’t have any bridesmaids, Claire (Alison Fitzjohn) who was once an aspiring diver has gained a lot of weight, Heather (Emily Joyce) who was very popular with the boys in now a lesbian, and bookworm Zoe (Jayne McKenna) has had 4 kids before she finished university.

The women all give sold performances, but it’s Alison Fitzjohn’s performance which stands out as it really tugs at the heart strings of the audience the most.

The clever set by designer Jon Bausor starts with a giant television screen showing old Ceefax pages from the early 90s with very topical news about the European Union to headlines about Jurassic Park being the biggest selling film.

Could it be magic

As the women jet off to Prague at the end of the second half, the sound of an aeroplane roars through the theatre as its projection flies above the seats – which feels as if a real plane is flying overhead.

Alison Fitzjohn as Claire, Jayne McKenna as Zoe, Rachel Lumberg as Rachel & Emily Joyce as Heather with Five To Five in The Band. Pic Matt Crockett

Of course, the music is all from Take That and it shows just how much the band’s music has stood the test of time. There’s a great mix of songs from all fans to enjoy from the early ones like A Million Love Songs, Could It Be Magic and It Only Takes A Minute to the more recent hits like Greatest Day and The Flood.

One of the most poignant moments comes when the women and their teenage selves sing Back For Good as they reflect back on what their lives have now become. The show end with a hands-in-the-air reprise of Never Forget, one of Take That’s most popular numbers.

The Band is the perfect tribute to anyone who grew up in the 90s reading Smash Hits and watching Top of the Pops every week – a beautiful, tear-jerking show that’s the best new musical to hit theatres in years.

Running time: two hours and 15 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA. Phone booking: 0844 871 3014
Tuesday 10 – Saturday 14 July 2018.
Tue-Thurs & Sat: 7.30pm, Fri: 5pm & 8.30pm; Matinees: Weds, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and booking details: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-band/edinburgh-playhouse/

Tour Website: www.thebandmusical.com
Twitter: @TheBandMusical
Facebook: TheBandMusical

The Band on tour:

10 – 14 July 2018
Edinburgh
Playhouse
0844 871 3014
Book online

19 – 29 Sept 2018
Southend
Cliffs Pavilion
01702 351135
Book online

3 – 13 October 2018
Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122
Book online

16 – 20 October 2018
Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000
Book online

23 – 27 October 2018
Wimbledon
WimbledonTheatre
0844 871 7646
Book online

30 Oct – 3 Nov 2018
Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020
Book online

6 – 10 Nov 2018
Dublin
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
0844 847 2455
Book online

13 – 24 Nov 2018
Belfast
Grand Opera House
028 9024 1919
Book online

1 Dec 2018 – 12 Jan 2019
London
Theatre Royal Haymarket
020 7930 8800
Book online

16 – 26 Jan 2019
Salford
The Lowry
0843 208 6000
Book online

29 Jan – 2 Feb 2019
Swansea
Grand Theatre
01792 475 715
Book online

5 – 9 Feb 2019
Dartford
Orchard Theatre
01322 220000
Book online

12 – 16 Feb 2019
Ipswich
Regent Theatre
01473 433100
Book online

19 – 23 Feb 2019
Woking
New Victoria
0844 871 7645
Book online

26 Feb – 2 March 2019
Wolverhampton
Grand Theatre
01902 429212
Book online

5 – 9 March 2019
Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7627
Book online

12 – 16 March 2019
Southampton
Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811
Book online

ENDS

Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.
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Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.