Behind the Scenes at The Band, Part 3

LtoR Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario So...

(Left to Right) Five To Five: Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon

We’ve met the lovely leading ladies behind the show, the genius that is director and choreographer Kim Gavin, so now we move on to the all important voices who bring all those familiar Take That songs we know and love to life!

AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon collectively known as Five To Five and winners of BBC1’s Let It Shine play gave us a little background on just how it feels to be involved in such an exciting and hugely anticipated production.

(Opening Night) ON: From winning on Let It Shine to now must have been quite a ride, how has it been for you guys?

AJ: An absolute whirlwind would be one way to describe it, it’s been completly mad, from the start to where we are now. The rehearsals have been full on and we’re just so glad to be involved in such an incredible show, putting it in front of an audience has just been amazing.

Yazad: It’s been a long time coming, we’ve been so excited. We’ve been doing workshops, doing some of our own stuff and then into rehearsals. Now, after months of toiling away behind the scenes, we’re finally bringing it to an audience.

Sario: We were literally itching to get on stage, the workshops were great and we learnt so much but they feel like so long ago now.

AJ: We learnt something new each day. With Take That being producers on the show they came in a lot and mentored us which has been absolutely invaluable.

ON: Have you adopted a member of Take That in terms of your character?

Curtis: No, not really, although in the show we play the band, we play ourselves the band Five To Five. All of the qualities of Take That as individuals and as a group we take on board and we feel that singing their songs is part of their legacy and we absolutely have to do it justice and make sure we give every song what it deserves. So, although we take the qualities, we’re not Take That and we’re not trying to imitate them.

ON: We imagine your Mums must have been Take That fans, are they extremely excited about this?

Sario: My Mum’s already seen it three times and we’ve only done three shows!

AJ: We grew up with that music because our parents were fans, now we’re working with Take That, we’re singing their music in their musical, that’s beyond our wildest dreams and I think even what our parents dreamt for us!

ON: Do your Mums want to be roadies?

Nick: Yes! They’re really proud of us, I think for them it must be surreal to watch your child go off and do something so incredible.

ON: Thinking back to the night it was announced on BBC’s Let It Shine that you’d been chosen to be ‘The Band’, what were your initial feelings?

AJ: It was crazy, we’ve all watched talent shows and thought I want that to happen to me then when it does it’s literally indescribable, beyond our wildest dreams.

ON: We absolutely loved the way so many Take That songs are so brilliantly used in the story, we especially loved The Flood. You got a mid-performance standing ovation from some audience members during the song, how does that feel?

Sario: It’s great that we get to deliver the songs differently, with our different voices. People are so used to hearing Take That singing these songs and they sing them so well but hearing different voices offers a different experience. Knowing we have Take That’s stamp of approval makes it even more special.

ON: We’ve seen some tweets off Take That wishing you good luck, have they given you any advice?

Sario: “Don’t mess it up!”

Yazad: Their mentoring has been invaluable, sharing the stage with them tonight was amazing.

(Take That surprised the boys AND the audience by joining them onstage for a special encore)

Just being in their company we’ve learnt so much.

Sario: The one thing they alway say is just enjoy it, go out there and just enjoy every minute of it. This is such a precious gift we have, to be able to perform to such amazing audiences every night is incredible, we just want to enjoy this unbelievable experience.

Curtis: It’s a cliche but we are ‘living the dream’.

ON: This tour is just starting, but afterwards will Five To Five continue?

AJ: Yes, absolutely. We’ve signed a three year management deal so obviously this is currently our priority but things will be bubbling away under the surface. We will be working with Take That and our management on new material which we’re all very excited about.

ON: Curtis, will you be writing the new material? 

Curtis: I think we’ll all be writing the songs, it all feels very exciting, like we’re at the start of a long journey for us as Five To Five. This really is just the start!

The Band runs at Manchester’s Opera House until 30th September 2017 before starting a UK tour.

For tickets and further information head to http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-band/opera-house-manchester/

http://www.bandmusical.com/tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes at The Band, Part 2

Director Kim Gavin (front centre) with Take That and the cast of THE BAND, credit Matt Crockett

Director Kim Gavin (front centre) with Take That and the cast of THE BAND, credit Matt Crockett

Part two of our backstage at The Band sees Opening Night meet director and choreographer of the musical Kim Gavin.

One of the UK’s leading creative directors and choreographers Kim’s back catalogue includes artistic director of the Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies for London 2012, the man behind the Circus stadium tour for Take That and the producer of some of the biggest live events of recent years, including Concert For Diana in 2007.

We grabbed him for the lowdown on the challenges of bringing the music of Take That to the stage and making it work as a musical.

(Opening Night) ON: This is an incredible show Kim, how do you get it to that level?

(Kim Gavin) KG: I’ve worked with Take That for 25 years so I know their standard, we created the standards together. Tim (Firth) came up with a great concept and about a year ago he came and spoke to me and said he had this idea.  Essentially about all the people who loved Take That…and hopefully there’s girls in the audience going seeing it now and going… ‘Am I that person?..‘Am I Rachel, am I Claire’? It’s just a great night out and you know you are going to get value for money; you are going to get singing, dancing and just escape for the moment. This is about being 16 and then jumping those 25 years to where you’ve got a lot more responsibilities but how do you feel at that time. I think it resonates with young and old who go to see it.

ON: Was it a difficult decision to come on board with the show?

KG: When I was presented with the story and Tim said this is where I’m going with it, there was no hesitation – I said ‘I’m in’.

AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon, Nick Carsberg & Curtis T Johns, credit Jay Brooks

‘The Band’ (Left to Right) AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon, Nick Carsberg & Curtis T Johns, credit Jay Brooks

ON:  Where do you start with bringing a show to the stage and making it a reality? Is it a long process?

KG: A surprisingly short amount of time really is needed when you are certain that you are going to go forward with it. You need to get everything in place and certainly from a touring perspective you need to get things in place much more in advance. Putting a show on you need a good 3 to 4 months to say right that’s what we are doing. You can look on paper and read the script in your own mind but when you go into a room at workshop stage with actors – it changes how you see it.  We did a really good workshop at the Manchester Apollo in March and we knew we were on a winner then.  It’s taken on quite a few changes since and we have learnt a lot from – in March we though we’re ready but we are not quite there yet in terms of the story, and what’s in it and how the production moves. Then we started rehearsals on the 17th July.

Howard Donald, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams and The Band, credit Jay Brooks

Howard Donald, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams and The Band, credit Jay Brooks

ON: There’s a huge back catalogue of Take That songs to choose from to put into the show…did you know straight away which ones you were going to use?

KG: It’s been weird for me doing this and placing the Take That songs in certain places during the show. I’m so used to working with the boys and I can second guess where they think things should be when we tour. If I’ve got a great idea for a number and the idea is fantastical and it should be maybe three quarters of the way in, we easily come up with a set list of what goes where at what time. We always close the Take That tours with Never Forget but for Never Forget to not close Act One in The Band and come before it – well that was quite hard for me to deal with in terms of it felt like we were throwing away a number, because we know how big it can be.  I guess with all storytelling techniques when you start listening to the lyrics with our story and when Tim explained why it’s so significant we have it there, it dictates it. But at first when you are not really immersed in events you think ‘is that the right choice’ then the further you go down the line you start to evolve the story and care about the characters you realise it could only go there.

ON: So what’s the plan for the show after the tour ends?

KG: We want a West End residency, that’s the ultimate. What’s fabulous about Take That is they make music for the people and I don’t mind if this show tours forever because it is about people from all walks of life and everyone will get it. I’m sure there will be some changes to be made if we did move to London as we built the show to ‘tour’ so there are restrictions on what we can do with it. If it went into the West End we would go for it a bit more as we would have the flexibility to be there for a long time without having to constantly move the set in and out.

http://www.thebandmusical.com

 

BRB – Aladdin

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Birmingham Royal Ballet returns to the Lowry’s Lyric theatre this week with their magical, family-friendly production of Aladdin. Taken from the stories of the Arabian Nights, David Bintley’s splendid version of this classic tale, with music by the BAFTA award-winning Carl Davis chose Salford to begin their Autumn/Winter ’17 season.

This enchanting production perfectly balances humour with beautiful chorography, and explores aspects of the tale that audiences may not have been aware of. The story begins with a young, cheeky Aladdin (Mathias Dingman) escaping the clutches of the palace guards with the help of the mysterious Magician, the Mahgrib (Iain Mackay), who subsequently tricks Aladdin into entering the dark cave on his behalf to retrieve the lamp.

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Each Act has its own crescendo which does not fail to dazzle the audience. The Cave of Riches at the end of Act I, is one of exquisite beauty, in which mischievous Aladdin is surrounded by an array of dancing gems who demonstrate a wide range of styles and techniques much to the delight of the audience. The gems lead Aladdin to the old lamp which places him on a road to riches and leads him to his true love, princess, Badr al-Budur (Momoko Hirata).

The sets and costumes become more vibrant and luxurious as the story unfolds, and as Aladdin himself becomes more accustomed to his life of luxury under the brilliantly blue Djinn of the lamp (played by Tzu-Chao Chou). The performance would not be the same without the dazzling orchestra conducted by Paul Murphy and led by Robert Gibbs, which adds to the atmosphere immensely, allowing the performance to swap and change between suspense and humour seamlessly.

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This production is bound to astonish audiences of all ages, with its delightful and superbly delivered chorography, technicoloured sets, sumptuous costumes and enchanting score. Birmingham Royal Ballet once again prove why they are one of the most loved and celebrated companies around, visually stunning, highly entertaining and not to be missed!

On at The Lowry until Saturday 23rd of Sepember tickets available here http://www.thelowry.com/events/aladdin

Reviewed by Emily Cotter

Dirty Dancing

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Based on the iconic 1987 movie starring the incredible Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, this revamped version using impressive new sets and songs from the movie not originally in the stage musical has been wowing audiences across the UK all year, reaching its final stop of the tour in Liverpool last night.

Director Federico Bellone, choreographer Gillian Bruce and designer Roberto Cometti, have sexed up the original stage musical (yes it’s EVEN sexier than before) as the classic story of Baby and Johnny is played out by the most talented of casts.

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Getting us all hot under the collar as Jonny Castle is the immensely talented and deliciously dangerous Lewis Griffiths, he literally made Liverpool scream as he stepped into Swayze’s Cuban heels and gave Baby (Katie Eccles) the summer of her life. The chemistry between the two is electrifying, you find yourself rooting for them right from the off, the buzz in the audience as we build up to ‘that’ lift is almost enough to raise the roof of the Empire. Eccles is superb as Baby as we see her find her inner strength and go after her heart’s desire. Indeed the energy from the entire cast is incredible; Carlie Milner makes for the most perfect Penny, her skill and talent quite breath-taking as she dances up a storm on stage.

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Roberto Cometti’s set is streets ahead of those we’ve seen in previous incarnations of this production, inventive and impressive it allows for real creativity in the staging. Add to this Gillian Bruce’s incredible choreography, sizzling, sexy and so so slick there’s no wonder audiences keep coming back for more.

Chock full of heartache, passion, sensational dance routines and all the classic hits fans know and love including Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, She’s Like The Wind and the legendary (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, this production is everything fans of the film could wish for. The hardworking cast deliver in spade loads, whipping the audience into just the right level of excitement before taking it up a notch again, until we literally reach fever pitch at the finale, uplifting, exciting and hugely entertaining surpassing all previous productions, Dirty Dancing will undoubtedly give you the time of your life!

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With only five more days to catch this impressive production, head to www.dirtydancingontour.com/tickets-tour for tickets.

Liverpool Empire Mon 18th – Saturday 23rd September 2017

Behind the Scenes with the cast of The Band – Part 1

LtoR Jayne McKenna, Emily Joyce, Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn credit ...

(Left to Right) Jayne McKenna, Emily Joyce, Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn

Last week we were privileged to get a sneak preview of new musical The Band, penned by Tim Firth and jam-packed with Take That tunes. It’s currently proving to be one of the hottest tickets in town and wowing audiences in Manchester, where it has had its UK premiere.

Press night isn’t until next week so we can’t give away any secrets until after that but we can tell you we are counting down the days until we see it again.

Opening Night was treated to meeting the stars of the show after the curtain fell and over the next few days we will be posting some of our interviews with the cast and production team, sharing some of the secrets to putting the musical together.

First up we chatted to a couple of the incredibly talented ladies at the forefront of The Band. Emily Joyce who plays grown up Heather and Jayne McKenna the grown up Zoe…

Emily Joyce as Heather, Alison Fitzjohn as Claire & Jayne McKenna as Zoe in rehearsals for The Band, credit Matt Crockett

Emily Joyce as Heather, Alison Fitzjohn as Claire & Jayne McKenna as Zoe in rehearsals for The Band, credit Matt Crockett

(Opening Night) ON: You all look like you are having a ball up there…

(Emily Joyce) EJ: We really are. I’ve not enjoyed anything like this for a long time!

ON: How excited are you about the potential of this show?

EJ: Very excited. A lot of people come expecting the story of Take That and it’s not. It’s about the women, friendship, tenderness and the boys (Five To Five) provide this beautiful soundtrack to their lives which is quite filmic. It’s wonderful taking the audience through the highs and lows and an absolute joy to play.

ON: Did you have any idea you were auditioning for The Band or was it all cloak and dagger at the start?

EJ: We hadn’t seen the script but were told it was off the back of a BBC TV programme and then when the programme came out (Let It Shine) we had already had second auditions by then and had to be recorded to sing…for Gary Barlow, Robbie and everyone else…no pressure there then!

ON: Did you get the parts you went for?

EJ: No

(Jayne McKenna) JM: We both went up for Heather or Zoe…

EJ: It was during my second interview that they said actually would you mind reading Heather…

JM: I’m a mother of three boys and I think they saw in me something that clicked with the character and interestingly then Tim (Firth) started to adapt the characters around us. I had actually wanted to go to Uni in real life but didn’t because I had kids, like Zoe.

EJ: And I sow and make clothes like my character Heather…

JM: It’s like the parts have been tailored made for us.

ON: Now you obviously play the girls 25 years on, what’s your relationship with the actresses who play the younger versions of you (as 16 year olds)?

EJ: We are quite protective over them

JM: I call them our mini-me’s. It’s great because they all embrace what they are doing. There was a day during the run throughs that they were so good we were all like ‘god we are gonna have to up our game here!’

LtoR Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario So...

(Left to Right) Five To Five: Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon

ON: What about the boys Five To Five? Obviously there was a lot of focus on them after winning Let It Shine…

JM: They are the hardest working boys and lovely people – what a find! Plus the first day we all rehearsed together Tim described the boys as a greek chorus and all of a sudden it made sense how they fit into the show. They are part of everything and not just singing at the back like you might think – they are integral to the story.

ON: Talking of the boys…if we switch to the real ones behind the show – aka Take That, who is your favourite member?

EJ: Now or then?

ON: It’s changed?

EJ: Back then I liked Mark, I still do he’s absolutely gorgeous but Howard now, he is lovely. I do think they get better with age.

(We are joined by Alison Fitzjohn who plays Claire)

AF: …Mark! I just love him, although I really did like Howard when he had his dreadlocks. I’m exactly the right age for my character and I absolutely loved Take That when I was growing up. Now meeting them has been unbelievably insane, I keep crying every now and then because I can’t quite believe it. At the end when we sing the lyrics ‘this is the life we’ve been given’ I’m like this really IS the life I’ve been given and it makes me very emotional to be standing there.

Runs at Manchesters’ Opera House until 30th September 2017

Tickets available: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-band/opera-house-manchester/

http://www.thebandmusical.com/tour

 

 

 

 

Lowry Competition!

Comp

We are thrilled to be able to offer a family ticket to see the fabulous Fauna on either Thursday 21st or Fri 22nd September at the Lowry.

Winner of the Total Theatre and Jackson’s Lane Award for Circus at Edinburgh Festival 2017, Fauna is a unique mixture of acrobatics, dance and movement with a brilliant live musical score – a mesmerising evening of extraordinary strength and sublime skill!

To enter all you need to do is follow our page and share this post, good luck!

Further information can be found at http://www.thelowry.com/events/fauna

Cover My Tracks

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Charlie Fink, formerly of Noah and the Whale brings his latest album Cover My Tracks to the Lowry: however the evening promises something a little different. It is billed as a piece of ‘gig theatre’ and Fink shares the stage with actress Rona Morison to tell the tale of a singer song writer, a lover, a masterpiece, heartbreak and loss.

Armed with a stool, acoustic guitar and a dimly lit spotlight, Fink arrives on stage followed by Morison and between Fink’s songs and Morison we learn about two unnamed lovers torn apart by the apparent suicide of one, leaving their partner to cope with the loss and a chance to unravel the mystery as to what really happened.

The story is filled with highs and lows as we see how the couple met, their life on the road, the moment they write a huge hit record and finally the breakdown in their relationship as one desperately wants to escape from the trappings of modern life and eventually make the ultimate sacrifice…or do they?

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This is a fascinating piece of work. Fink may be the star attraction on the poster, but his is a low-key, restrained performance and certainly the delivery of his songs was reminiscent of the late Leonard Cohen. This is in stark contrast to the ball of energy that is Morison, who is excellent as our narrator conveying the joy, misery and raw emotion of someone desperate for answers. Morison also gives Fink a run for his money in the vocal department, demonstrating a fine singing voice.

The story is told through some truly beautiful songs with standout tracks being Firecracker and I Was Born to Be A Cowboy. The plot is riddled with intrigue as we know very little about our protagonist including their names and their gender further enhancing our engagement with the drama.

The production isn’t without flaws, taking a rather romanticised view of grief and mental health issues in some parts but on the whole this an innovative and engaging piece, a unique and hugely enjoyable way to listen to an album with a context.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 16th September, for tickets head to http://www.thelowry.com/events/cover-my-tracks