The Band – Review – Manchester Opera House

the band review manchester grand opera house 2017 review

The Band – Review

Manchester Opera House, September 2017

by Rachel Crow

Having been a Take That fan for 25 years, I’ll admit I’m a little apprehensive as I take my seat at the Manchester Opera House for the opening night of The Band, the new musical by Tim Firth, starring Five to Five, the winners of BBC One’s Let it Shine.

The curtain on the stage depicts a 90s-style ‘portable’ TV displaying Ceefax with some of the top stories of the day. It’s a great talking point as the audience read about the Euro, Jurassic Park and Bill Clinton taking office and try to recall the exact year – was it 1992 or 3? Thankfully that question is soon put to bed as the curtain falls and the stage bursts into life. A 41-year-old Rachel, played by Rachel Lumberg, introduces her 16-year-old self as Take That top the charts for the first time with ‘Pray’ and we get the first glimpse into the life of a ‘band’ fan.

Together with her friends Debbie, Heather, Zoe and Claire, Rachel takes us on an emotional journey from her bedroom and the school locker room when Top of the Pops was unmissable Thursday night TV, to a girly break in Prague some 25 years later.

the band manchester grand opera house review take that musical cast

“Gloriously fun”

Take That have been quick to say the show is not about them and while there is no doubt that ‘the band’ bear a striking resemblance to the original five-piece and the live gig moments recreate some of their landmark performances, they are right. This is a story of love, loss, music and above all else, friendship.

There are a couple of little hiccups with temperamental sets misbehaving and a microphone or two seemingly dropping out momentarily but, teething problems aside, this is a slick production with clever design, direction, lighting and choreography that envelops the audience from the word go.

All the hits you’d expect from a Take That musical are here, as well as a few unexpected inclusions. ‘Shine’, in an airport, is gloriously fun and cheeky and leaves me grinning like the Cheshire cat’s long lost cousin, while a beautifully moving rendition of ‘Rule The World’ renders me a blubbering wreck.

The success of The Band rests on the chemistry between the cast members: the audience needs to believe that these girls are friends and thankfully they hit the jackpot with these guys – you get the feeling they’re enjoying themselves as much, if not more so, than the audience.

the band manchester grand opera house review take that musical girls


Five to Five are surprisingly good as the ubiquitous ‘band’ performing the soundtrack of a million girls’ youths. It seems a little unfair then to single one out for special praise but Nick Carsberg is simply mesmerising, visually and vocally.

Similarly, Rachel Lumberg and Faye Christall are a formidable duo as teen and middle-aged Rachel both giving outstanding performances. Credit must also go to Rachelle Deidricks who despite not featuring in the story for long manages to evoke the empathy of the entire audience, even through the annoying distraction of a sea of mobile phones turned to torch mode and held aloft.

It’s testament to the craftsmanship of the writing which is witty and thought provoking (no mean feat), that the show clearly strikes a chord with the full house on opening night. Men and women alike nod their heads or hide their faces as they recognise their own mischievous paths to this point. However, the real beauty of The Band is that any fan of any group anywhere in the world can relate to it.

In a time when arts funding is once again under fire and new British musicals are few and far between, The Band is a real triumph. A truly heart warming comedy musical deserving of its standing ovation and more – I for one cannot wait for a repeat performance.



  1. Gill 27 September, 2017 at 11:41 Reply

    I was very disappointed with the musical I was under the impression it was about Take That story not 5 teenage girls story, I think the story took away the talent of the Band they seemed like second best which is wrong, dont get me wrong it was funny in parts but not what I was expecting I think the advertising was misleading.

  2. Ada Rushworth 13 September, 2017 at 23:09 Reply

    Just return from seeing this fabulous show Everyone was excellent Would recommend you by tickets and see a great show in Manchester till 30th September

  3. Gill Brown 13 September, 2017 at 00:47 Reply

    Having been the biggest take that fan for 25 years I was a little apprehensive when my sister booked tickets to see “The Band” . How wrong was I! what a fabulous night we had, everyone can relate to some parts of the the story a real must for all the biggest Take that fans!!

  4. Caroline Larner 12 September, 2017 at 09:14 Reply

    Amazing performance! Curtis T. Johns was the standout performer in Five 2 Five with amazing renditions of A Million Love Songs and Patience. A soulful, beautiful voice which was the star of the show with the songs and blew everyone else out the water. I would go and see this again and again as I loved every minute of the humour, songs and atmosphere. A triumph for Take That, the cast, the writers and the production crew.

  5. Kirsty Glover 10 September, 2017 at 13:21 Reply

    I watched the show last night and was blown away at how much it reminded me of my friends when we were young. Highlights were Curtis singing Million love songs and Aj in never forget beautiful storyline

  6. Debbie 10 September, 2017 at 13:11 Reply

    Fantastic I went with a group of 30 people! Each and everyone of us could relate to the story. We laughed cried. Brilliant cast and production team. Five to Five were amazing..
    Must give a shout out to one young man though.. Curtis T Johns voice singing A Million Love Songs and Patience. Perfection!! I have bought more tickets now for other venues just to hear him sing again!
    All in all I give a 10 out of 10. Gary Howard Mark Robbie Jason David Simon and Daf must be so proud and deservedly so! Standing ovations all round!

  7. Gail Finan 10 September, 2017 at 12:52 Reply

    I was at opening night I didn’t know what to expect. What I got was second to none. The best musical I’ve seen in a long time. I laughed ,cried, danced and sang, had had w wonderful trip down memory lane with some of my favourite Take That songs. In good true take that style. I left wanting more. Obviously I’ve bought more tickets. Can’t wait loved every minute All the cast and five to five get a 10/10 from me xx

  8. Hilda longley 10 September, 2017 at 10:21 Reply

    I went with my daughter who is 30 years of age I am my 6th decade but young at heart. The play brought fond memories of myself dancing to Take That when they were young. Good memories. The play was funny, storyline good, singing brilliant, live music great. And timing was brilliant – the actors knew when to hold for a laugh. Any free tickets so we can go again or my daughter can take her daughter?

  9. Zara 10 September, 2017 at 01:07 Reply

    Curtis T Johns singing Million Love Songs and Patience was just outstanding and emotional. It had me crying and with goosebumps. Gary must be so happy with his songs x

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