Review: The Band. What would be the soundtrack of your life?
PUBLISHED: 14:27 18 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:27 18 April 2018
Even if you are not the biggest fan of one of the most iconic bands of our generation there are so many layers to the new hit musical The Band, which opened at Bristol's Hippodrome last night, that it is most definitely still worth catching.
Based around the songs of Britain’s most successful boy band Take That, The Band is the fastest-selling musical theatre tour of all time and has already added a number of dates to the schedule.
So, firstly, if you are not a Take That fan there is the incredibly moving and clever story, written by Tim Firth.
Initially set in 1992, a group of 16-year-old girls stop everything for their weekly fix of Top Of The Pops on a Thursday evening at 7pm to watch their favourite band and sing and dance along.
The same women meet 25 years later, and try to fulfil their dream of meeting the boy band whose music became the soundtrack to their lives.
It is immediately relatable as everyone has a similar story of nostalgia, with music being such an emotive part of our lives it is almost a time machine for our brains.
And it is hilariously funny, with audience members nodding along in recognition of the teenage angst and traumas the characters go through in the past and in their present situations. Particularly funny is Andy Williams who plays Every Dave – a clever idea for the character everyone knows or remembers knowing from the school caretaker to the gig roadie and bus driver – and who is almost always called Dave!
Then there’s the brilliant and perfectly faultless acting by the whole cast, with no one actor standing out above the others. Rachel Lumberg was very natural and completely credible in her role as the main character, portraying her perfectly as a normal middle-aged woman who comes to realise she has probably underplayed her life. Her journey into rediscovering the joys of childhood innocence and fun are especially poignant. And comic characters in the shape of her two friends are expertly played by Horrible Histories actor Alison Fitzjohn and Emily Joyce, who is best-known for her role in BBC TV comedy My Hero.
Then of course there is the staging - it was one of the most spectacular, surprising and clever collection of sets I have ever seen. How the designers managed to fit five fully grown men into the bedroom furniture and school lockers which then transformed into actual double-stacked school lockers seconds later would even make Derren Brown envious! The amazing sets also included a moveable bus, plane, hilltop and various stages the band perform on, complete with chariots and dazzling lighting and pyrotechnics.
And finally, yes the music! All the familiar Take That songs are there including Never Forget, Back For Good, Relight My Fire, Pray, The Flood, Rule The World and my favourite which has always made me cry since my son sang it at a production on his last day of primary school, Greatest Day.
Members of Take That have been involved in the show from day one with Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen and Robbie Williams among its producers.
When the project was in its infancy a TV talent show was launched to find the lads who would play The Band, with Barlow as one of the judges. The five would-be stars then formed their own band called Five To Five during the BBC’s Let It Shine show and are now busy recording their first album.
The five-piece are present in most of the scenes, as the girls, first as teenagers, then as women recall how there is a tune and lyrics which perfectly fit every moment of their lives. This gives the boys chance to showcase their voices, not only as a harmonious band but provides a chance for them to shine in their own right. Their obvious enjoyment of the tunes, dancing and performing as a band on stage for the girls is infectious and soon had the audience singing and clapping along.
It obviously helps if you have a fondness for Take That, as I do, but even if you do not the show stands up on its own and is an uplifting one which you will definitely Never Forget.
The Band is on at The Hippodrome until April 28.
For tickets, priced £23.40-53.40, and show times, visit www.atgtickets.com/venues/bristol-hippodrome or call 08448 713012.