It would have been very easy to bring a straightforward rise-to-stardom Take That jukebox musical to the big screen with The Band, but the creators of this very impressive production have opted for something very different, and something very special that you’ll never forget.

Photo credit: Matt Crockett

Taking a very different approach, The Band revolves around a group of five young girls in their teens in the early 1990s. They share an infatuation with an unnamed pop band, a five-piece who dominate the headlines of their pop magazines and TV screens every Thursday evening on Top Of The Pops. The girls’ walls are dominated with posters of the group, and their school lockers are lined with further images and paraphernalia. When the girls are 16, during a trip home from one of their concerts, tragedy strikes, and the relationship between them is changed forever.

Fast-forward 25 years and, after Rachel (Rachel Lumberg) wins a radio competition to go and see the boys in concert in Prague, the girls are reunited. Decades have passed, but that solid bond still remains, and the friends go on a journey together to rediscover one another and rekindle the strong relationship they all had during the most important and toughest periods of their young lives – and, at the same time, hopefully meet their idols in the flesh.

First off, the performances from the nine women in this essential production are nothing short of outstanding. Lumberg, along with her contemporaries Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna, all delight in four performances that are both funny, heartfelt and utterly natural and believable, while Faye Christall, Katy Clayton, Sarah Kate Howarth and Lauren Jacobs are equally magnificent as their younger selves. Then there’s Rachelle Diedricks as Debbie, a difficult part, ansolutely a stand out, along with Andy Williams as Every Dave, who brings much of the funnier elements to the stage throughout.

AJ Bentley, Harry Brown, Yasdan Qafouri, Sarlo Soloman and Curtis T. Johns were ‘the boys’ during our performance, and clearly relished the opportunity to step into the shoes of Britain’s biggest boy band. All were exceptional.

The programme for The Band features a list of the creative team behind this hugely enjoyable new musical, and as a slogan it has ‘With The Music Of Take That’ scribed under the title. This is important, as the music, while clearly essential to the story and the musical’s pull, is very much featured in the background of the piece. The band is ever present on stage, familiar songs being constantly played out – all accompanying the story of this group of young women. The band is always looking on, helping these young women through the constant challenges of life, the hard, teenage years during the production’s first part, and then the trials of middle-age a little later on.

Every scene is a marvel to watch, the changing of sets equally dynamic and well done, a stand-out being a middle segment set in and around a plane that is about to take off for the Czech Republic. While the staging is good, the sound and accompanying band is also magnificent, every Take That song from ‘Pray’ to ‘These Days’ perfectly recreated by a live on-stage band.

If you’re expecting to see a Take That musical focussed solely on the lore of Gary, Mark, Robbie, Howard and Jason, then prepare to be disappointed, but also prepare yourselves to be pleasantly surprised, as The Band is a very different, hugely enjoyable study of idolisation and rekindled friendship. It’s an outstanding piece of work, a production that’ll have you up on your feet dancing at the end, and then, as the curtain falls, have you walk away thinking that you’ve experienced something quite special indeed. Could it be magic? Absolutely.

The Band is now around touring the around the country.

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The Band