dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
The Take That musical without Take That
The Band is also known as the Take That musical. But interestingly while the show features the music of boy band Take That it's not actually about Take That and this ensures it has wider appeal than the band's fan base.
Written by Tim Firth, The Band tells the story of five teenage girls who go to their first concert together. After the gig, they each have a wristband from the concert and together they swear undying friendship. But life has a way of complicating the ideals of 16-year-olds and The Band fast forwards us 25 years to find a group of older, wiser and sometimes disappointed women.
Firth, who also penned the film and stage scripts for Calendar Girls, has a knack for getting inside the heads and hearts of his female characters so they become very real. As the girls pledge allegiance to friendship and the audience knows that life will get in the way, there are countless people remembering their teenage alliances and the friends lost over the years.
Take That are never named in the musical but the cast belt their way through a host of songs including Shine, Pray, Relight my Fire, Rule the World, Back for Good, Patience and A Million Love Songs.
The five guys who make up the boy band were all chosen after television talent show Let It Shine. AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon are clearly loving their moment in the spotlight but initially in this performance at Birmingham Hippodrome, they seemed a bit hesitant, which is surprising this far into a tour. They quickly got into their stride though and, as The Band, took on a host of roles in the musical from cleaners to air stewards.
Each of the girl/women roles is played by two characters. Both Faye Christall and Rachel Lumberg are really likeable as the lynchpin Rachel who is responsible for bringing the women back together. Bright and enthusiastic as a child, she has reached a point in her life where adventure and excitement seem a thing of the past – until she wins a competition to see her favourite band again.
Alison Fitzjohn gives a lively comic turn as the older Claire, Jayne McKenna plays an adult Zoe facing a crossroads in her life and Emily Joyce has a few surprises up her sleeve as the older Heather. The younger girls, played by Katy Clayton, Rachelle Diedericks, Sarah Kate Howarth and Lauren Jacobs are great performers, switching from comic to tragic and breaking into song with apparent ease.
Jon Bausor's designs are ambitious and clever with band members appearing out of cupboards, aeroplanes taking off and a memorable Prague fountain. Kim Gavin's choreography is packed full of energy across the cast.
Directed by Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder, The Band will clearly appeal to Take That fans but Firth's story takes it beyond so that theatre-goers will also become engrossed in the story of this group of girls and their futures.