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.
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
The Band on tour:
10 – 14 July 2018
0844 871 3014
19 – 29 Sept 2018
3 – 13 October 2018
His Majesty’s Theatre
16 – 20 October 2018
0114 249 6000
23 – 27 October 2018
0844 871 7646
30 Oct – 3 Nov 2018
0844 871 3020
6 – 10 Nov 2018
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
0844 847 2455
13 – 24 Nov 2018
Grand Opera House
028 9024 1919
1 Dec 2018 – 12 Jan 2019
Theatre Royal Haymarket
020 7930 8800
16 – 26 Jan 2019
0843 208 6000
29 Jan – 2 Feb 2019
01792 475 715
5 – 9 Feb 2019
12 – 16 Feb 2019
19 – 23 Feb 2019
0844 871 7645
26 Feb – 2 March 2019
5 – 9 March 2019
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7627
12 – 16 March 2019