The Band – Review – Bradford Alhambra
The Band – Review
Bradford Alhambra, October 2017
by Steve Crabtree – @stevecrab
It’s busy and it’s buzzing at the Alhambra in Bradford tonight; and there’s an incredibly upbeat atmosphere in the air as the excitement builds up for the opening night of the musical, The Band.
Directed by Tim Firth, and containing the music of Take That (who were heavily involved in the creation of the production), it’s broken records as the fastest selling UK tour ever; as the winners of BBC series Let It Shine make up the five boy band members that we’ll be watching tonight.
We take our seats, and its 9th September 1992. We know this because the curtain is actually a huge 14 inch portable colour TV with Ceefax refreshing itself with news and the pop charts; before the lights go down and the TV broadcasts the BBC One continuity announcement of the day, leading us in to the intro of a 1992 Top Of The Pops.
This is already my favourite ever start to a musical! I’m completely thrown back to the 14-year-old me, and I think the rest of the audience are back there somewhere too.
The curtain disappears fantastically in to the TV in Rachel’s bedroom and “TOTP” continues to play as the 16-year-old fan of “The Band” dances around her room, sings along to the songs as the band appear to be singing with her through the night, during her sleep, and as she gets ready for school the next morning.
Her best friend at school is Debbie, who we get to meet along with Zoe, Claire and Heather. It’s quickly apparent that these girls, a mixture of characters, share a special bond and a love of the band that only teenage girls can understand.
The Take That classics are being thrown out left, right and centre: ‘A Million Love Songs’, ‘Pray’ and ‘Rule The World’ being particular highlights. So far, it’s a very lively and upbeat production, with a plethora of laughs and a pleasant story which isn’t so much about the music, but more about best friends. And it’s the best friends thing that has surprised me slightly, as ‘the band’ are turning out to be the supporting role in the musical, and the five girls firmly have the lead.
We’re hit by tragic circumstances though, as the girls travel back from their first ever concert together. It’s a sad twist which then sees the closeness diminish between the girls, and as an emotional blanket is thrown over us in the audience; we get propelled in to the present day.
More humour gets injected in to the mix as we see the girls all grown up and as they are today, and the cast change is spot on. We get a few surprises as to what happened to the girls in their later life, but it’s soon clear that their bond is as strong as it’s ever been with each other.
They’re brought back together by Rachel, the elder version played superbly by Rachel Lumberg. She wins a competition for her and three others to go and see their band overseas, and decides to contact her old friends and asks them to join her.
The laughter goes up a notch, Alison Fitzjohn raising many of them as the older Claire; and the tunes are still providing the backdrop to the show. The lyrics are becoming poignant too whilst the story opens up a strong emotional journey on friendship, love, and the people who aren’t around any more.
‘Could It Be Magic’, ‘Shine’ and ‘These Days’ are all songs that get an airing, along with twelve others throughout the night. The way they’ve managed to fit a meaningful, fun, and seriously good story around a series of Take That songs is remarkable.
By the end of the show, there are many tears being wiped away in the audience, but there are many smiles at the same time. It’s a wonderful musical, and those who rushed to get tickets so quickly aren’t going to be disappointed.
The fantastic young and amazing older cast have been a credit to the show, as has ‘The Band’. We’ve been treated to some spectacular scenery, and at the end the entire audience are on their feet dancing to ‘Never Forget’.
We’ve really had a blast tonight, and the cheers and raucous applause for everyone who are part and parcel of this fascinating show is fully deserved.
images: Matt Crockett