The Band – Review – Leeds Grand
The Band – Review
Leeds Grand Theatre, March 2018
by Sandra Callard
The long-awaited musical The Band, chock-a-block full of the music and songs of the original (and best?) boy band, Take That, is finally on the road. Written by the amazingly creative Tim Firth of Calendar Girls and its subsequent musical The Girls fame, Firth hits the jackpot again with this joyous, down-to-earth production about the rise of a new boy band and the girl fans who spend a lifetime following them.
The band itself is made up of five handsome lads who won the BBC television competition Let it Shine, and who now call themselves Five to Five. For a new group they are amazingly sharp and professional. They look good, their voices blend well and they can dance. Not bad for starters.
“All shapes and sizes”
The story centres around a group of 16-year-old girls who spend their every waking moment thinking about, talking about and watching The Band. The girls are not, thankfully, the unlikely facsimiles of young girls often played in musicals by glamorous model-like actresses. These are ordinary, all shapes and sizes, typically daft teenagers. I loved the lot of them, in particular Rachel, played by an enthusiastic Faye Christall, who bounced around the stage like a demented balloon, and Rachelle Diedericks as Debbie, full of youth and hope, as they sing the praises of their heroes.
The girls are played by two sets of actors, one as the young and hopeful 16-year-olds, and the other playing them 25 years later, still avid fans and still hoping that they will meet The Band in reality and not just in their dreams.
“Tight and relevant”
It is almost surreal when watching the older actors playing the 40 odd year old girls, that they still held vestiges of the 16-year-old girls of long ago, and there are some beautifully moving sections here. Rachel Lumberg is superb as the grown up Rachel, and all the actors in these particular scenes are remarkably effective.
Tim Firth’s script is tight and relevant, its cleverness occasionally lost in a welter of teenage noise and abandonment, but nevertheless compelling and superbly apposite. Firth has a way of dredging every bit of action and emotion from his script, making this show far more than simply a vehicle for Take That songs – we can get that from a CD. Here, the work, the stress, the heartache and the joy of the songs are given a second airing through Firth’s script.
There are some pretty nifty special effects, mostly as background to The Band singing, but the girls also figure in some. A particular delight was a scene in the girls’ locker room as 16-year-olds when the boys in The Band appear out of the lockers, much to their shock and joy. Needless to say they cannot be conjured up again, but a nice, amusing little piece.
But you can never forget the music. So many of Take That’s hits are performed by The Band, the stand outs being Gary Barlow’s beautiful ‘A Million Love Songs’, ‘The Flood’ and ‘Back for Good’. Every song – and there are 18 performed during the show – is sung to such an incredibly high standard that even Gary, Robbie, Howard and Mark must take their hats off to them. The sell-out audience certainly did.