THE BAND: The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Reviewed 20th February 2018
Full of heart, feel good factor and pure entertainment. This show featuring the spectacular songs of Take That including ‘Never Forget’, ‘Back for Good’, ‘Greatest Day’, ‘Shine’ and ‘Rule the World’ to name but a few this is sure to be a hit with any Take That fan. The story focuses on a group of girls, once inseparable, who reunite after 25 years apart and try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting the boyband whose music became the soundtrack to their lives.
Tim Firth (writer) and Gary Barlow (Take That) attracted fans and built high expectations before the show had even started due to the BBC’s TV Show Let It Shine which helped to find the five band mates: AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon who form the band FIVE TO FIVE. THE BAND is now the fastest selling musical theatre tour of all time and is tipped to continue to impress audiences in the London’s West End.
The central storyline which follows the group of friends is touching and is something that most people can identify with. The acting throughout the show was excellent and the more sombre scenes were dealt with with great sensitivity. Both the past and present ‘girls’ have instantly likeable and relatable characters. Characterisation throughout this show is great. With each character having their own distinctive style and personality it is almost like catching up with your own friends. Amongst the five friends each audience member can find someone on stage that they have something in common with. This central element really helps to draw the audience in and keep them hooked. Tim Firth has written a superb plot, showing the audience that it is not just about Take That’s music or being a boyband fan but also about the friendships and fragility of life as we grow up.
Rachel Lumberg, who plays the central character, Rachel, shows a range of emotions throughout the show – all of which feel sincere and honest. Likewise Faye Christall, who plays Young Rachel, impresses with her comic timing and ability to show true emotions at the switch of a button. Alison Fitzjohn (Claire) particularly impresses during her moving scene about giving up on her dreams and her characterisation was fantastic. Katy Clayton, Young Heather, certainly knows how to command a stage and her comic timing was fantastic. The show was littered with comic one-liners and gags – all of which had the audience laughing out loud.
Obviously most of the audience have heard the Take That songs, in fact many could be heard singing along during some of the more upbeat numbers, and the way in which Steve Parry has written the orchestrations and put the songs together is very clever. Some of the loved songs are performed as though we are at a concert, thoroughly delighting most audience members. However the show also manages to show off some of the glorious harmonies and melodies of Take That during the subtle songs often performed in the background behind the acting which is taking place on stage. It was during these scenes where we were treated to the best vocals.
With a mixture of different styles and songs the songs are aptly chosen to fit the production and aid the storyline. However, for a show that is based on Take That and their songs it is a shame that some of the singing was questionable, especially by some of the leading soloists. But the heart and soul of the show more than makes up for this fact. The story itself it heartwarming. For this reason alone, this show is definitely more than a tribute show or a run-of-the mill jukebox musical. Ultimately the show is not about the band but is about the girls and their relationship.
The set and projections designed by Jon Bausor and Luke Halls were especially effective. The set pieces were impressive and the transitions were smooth. The projections, in particular, helped to set the scene and really added an extra layer to the well used stage. The use of multi-levels was effective and the entire set looked well made. The occasional glimpse of the on stage band was also a great addition. To the delight of many audience member the show is packed with nostalgic 90’s references, from Ceefax to Top of the Pops and Smash Hits.
The costumes definitely match the era and purpose of the show. The Band’s costumes are very much in keeping with the Take That costumes of the time, but not a direct copy which was good. Likewise the choreography, by Kim Gavin, certainly fits the 90’s pop boy band criteria. However, in places it needed a clean up and could have been executed more in sync. Some of the dancing looked stiff and tense – not in keeping with the songs the band are singing.
This production is clearly a hit with the audience; many audience members could be heard saying that this was a repeat visit. Fans of Take That, both young and old, will enjoy hearing their classics performed. But it is Tim Firth’s story and superb characters that makes this production special. Warm, funny and feel good. This show is more than just a tribute to Take That’s music. It is a show in its own right. Pure entertainment with a heartwarming plot. Catch this new British musical whilst you can.
THE BAND is playing at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury until Saturday 3rd March 2018. For information and tickets click here.
THE BAND continues to tour the UK until the 16th March 2019 for more information click here.
Photo Credit: Matt Crockett