Theatre Royal Haymarket, London – until 12 January 2019
A slender scenario in search of a storyline, new musical The Band at least has a solid gold score, utilising the extensive pop catalogue of superstar 1990s boy band Take That.
Casting for The Band was initially focused on the five boy band members, with BBC series Let It Shine finding the winning set of lads. The producers, however, know their market, and the musical is actually focused on a group of middle-aged women who reunite to see their idols in concert once more.
What this touring production lacks in budget it generally makes up for in heart. Beginning with five quirky 16-year-old school friends, the show moves forward 25 years to catch up with (spoiler alert) four women who have long since lost touch with each other. Only the most cynical audience member would not feel a glimmer of empathy for the plucky gals who vow to reclaim their lives after the reunion trip to Prague for the concert.
Book writer Tim Firth does not approach the levels of ingenuity he showed in criminally under appreciated jukebox classic Our House, the Madness musical. The idea here is maximum use of Take That songs, with a bit of an emotional arc for each of the women. The blandly simple concept works in the way intended, and with music this enjoyable that is all that really matters.
Some effort has clearly been made with positioning of the song choices, but the processed sound prevents meaningful impact of the lyrics, which were probably never meant to be heard all that closely anyway. Kim Gavin provides all the cheesy choreography the boy band can take.
The five boy band members sing and dance (and smoulder) with enthusiastic flair, but they are there purely as back up to the gals, not given dialogue, let alone names (nor even a name for their band).
The five young women playing the teenaged girls have the job of winning over the audience in the first third of the show, and they do this admirably. Rachelle Diedricks (Debbie) in particular has a winning stage presence.
In the roles of the four adult women Rachel Lumberg, Emily Joyce, Jayne McKenna and Alison Fitzjohn generate warmth and good humour, their enjoyment travelling across the footlights to reach the audience.
The type of show to watch with like minded friends of a similar vintage, The Band is inoffensive crowd pleasing merriment. The question only remains as to what else may have been achieved with these terrific songs with some more creativity and effort. One small blessing: at least The Band is not a bio-musical.
The Band was reviewed 7.30pm Monday 7 January 2019 at Theatre Royal Haymarket, London where it plays until 12 January 2019 before continuing its UK tour.