Fresh off the West End, the Take That jukebox musical 'The Band' is out and about, currently on its UK and Ireland tour. For those who experienced your younger years in the 90s, this show provides plenty of nostalgia to take you back (for good) to that time in your life, from Ceefax to Top of the Pops. For those of us just a little too late to enjoy the real fun, we are able to embrace those familiar tunes, as they are intertwined into a story of the fans, contrary to the title of the show.
Not too long into the performance, it is clear that this is far from a Take That tribute, but a bittersweet journey of five girls, who bonded over their love for the boys back when they were in school. As they grow older, they grow apart too, drifting away into their own separate futures. Decades later, they gain the chance to reunite, and are desperate not to pass up the opportunity, travelling to Prague in a bid to watch their teenage idols perform once again, while rekindling their old friendships. If you've come for deep layers of storyline, then this is not the one, since it is somewhat lacking in that department, though makes up for it in others. It is evidently rather predictable in places, but this often doesn't take anything away from the act as a whole. With no dialogue whatsoever for any of 'the band', it truly does focus on the ordinary, bringing the show to the audience in a way that allows us to relate on a new level- reality is a rarity in musicals.
This show has impeccable casting- I mean literally insane. The younger ladies of the cast genuinely look like the 16 year old version of their counterpart, so much so, it is rather illusional really. There is a particular scene near the end which compiles all of the cast together, showing their unreal likeness to one another in such a lovely way. They were all amazing and played their parts really well, fitting the roles perfectly.
The band were selected through the process of the 2017 BBC show 'Let It Shine', ensuring they were the ideal boys for the job. After being whittled down by a panel of judges including none other than Gary Barlow himself, these chosen talented humans embarked on their theatre career, portraying the legendary Take That, and what great candidates they are too!
For a touring show, the props used were unlike anything I've ever seen before- it became immediately obvious why they need a huge stage! The actual band are situated on the back half of the stage behind a curtain, with the rest of the set up including a track and tunnel centre stage, underneath a ledge that doubled up as both the concert stage and the rocks up a hill they climb. This ingenious set design is paired with phenomenal choreography, utilising the whole stage to its maximum, while incorporating a fantastic range of props from school lockers to buses.
As for the songs, there's no doubting the sheer talent of Take That when they produced those hits in order to be the musical sensations they are. Putting them into a musical meant that they weren't always integrated seamlessly, but this just added a little more humour, when the boys randomly burst on stage out of nowhere, singing a firm favourite of ours. In many cases, this show has given new meanings to old songs, reviving the iconic childhood tracks alongside the modern day reunion story.
Throughout the show, there are numerous effects used to amplify the performance, including masses of dry ice that drifts into the audience, ticker tape that also ends up in the faces of those in the front row, and an aeroplane simulation that rumbles the theatre out of the first act. It, again, gives full purpose for the desire for a big stage.
The costume changes were amazing, occurring so ridiculously fast it barely seems humanly possible. A stand out scene was that following the interval, depicting the activities of the girls on their trip to Prague. Without any spoilers, I'll just say that the boys look fabulous in their very clever outfits so definitely enjoy that bit.
While in many aspects there are delightfully happy moments, others are beautifully poignant. It conveys important messages and touches topics in a fun, entertaining and engaging way, that may otherwise be difficult to reach, such as love, loss, friendship and growth, both in age and as a person. So many deeper meanings can be taken from this show. It is a gentle reminder to hold on a little tighter to those we don't want to lose, to embrace every special moment because nobody knows what will happen next, and ultimately, that dreams do come true, and life works out sublimely somehow or another in the end. Between parts that tug at the heart strings and energetic and uplifting songs being blasted out, you lose yourself in the show, not always knowing where the emotion will go next.
'The Band' will inevitably get you laughing, crying and up on your feet dancing and singing along at one point or another: it is a total rollercoaster, which is everything a show like this should be.