The Band

Opening Night rating: *****

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Tim Firth’s much anticipated new musical using the songs of Take That officially opened in Manchester last night after just over 2 weeks of previews and was without doubt the hottest ticket in town.

Taking us back to 1992 when for five 16 year old friends The Band is their absolute everything, they live, breathe, eat & sleep the music. Fast forward 25 years and life is somewhat different for our ladies as they attempt one last time to meet their teenage crushes. The winning of concert tickets to Prague soon becomes a journey of self-discover as they not only attempt to reconnect with each other but remember and realise the hopes and dreams of their 16 year old selves.

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Tim Firth once again delivers a truly wonderful script; his writing for the women in this show is emotional, informed and enormously relatable, he just gets women. Incredibly emotional in parts, each character feels entirely real and will undoubtedly strike a chord with its audience. Not only do you see your 16 year old self in the younger girls, their sass, their energy and love for each other but the recognisable elements in the lives of the women really make for some incredibly moving moments. Life has moved on and gone in unplanned directions but we soon realise their inner child was there all along, just waiting to be given the chance to run free again.

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The five young actresses playing the girls Faye Christall, Rachelle Diedericks, Katy Clayton, Lauren Jacobs and Sarah Kate Howarth are exceptional, witty, full of fun and incredibly lovable, their portrayal of being 16 and in love with a boy band is just perfect, throw in lots of cultural references and you are literally back standing outside the Apollo with them, plastic dummy round your neck with a train ticket in your hand you should have used an hour ago.

Superb direction from Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder ensures Jon Bausor’s creative set is used to its full potential, moving from High School corridors to airport runways seamlessly, cleverly making use of The Band to change scenes and move props without stalling the action. Take That’s music has been cleverly placed throughout the production; songs are used sensitively allowing the lyrics to be heard differently as well as to great comedic effect when life decisions need to be made. Just as we feel we might be heading down a slightly cheesy path a laugh is delivered and we realise that this clever production isn’t afraid to poke fun at its own jukebox genre.

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Winners of BBC’s Let It Shine, Five To Five made up of AJ Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Sario Solomon, Nick Carsberg and Yazdan Qafouri work incredibly hard throughout the show and deliver as well as some stunning vocals, incredibly slick choreography, creating the perfect soundtrack to this uplifting and vibrant production. They supply the soundtrack to our ladies lives from start to finish, proving to be the one thing they can rely on to be a constant in life, instantly offering a safe haven, taking them away from places of pain and sadness.

As the production progresses our main focus becomes the four ladies, 25 years older and reconnecting for the first time, Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna are faultless. Witty, full of suprises and entirely relatable, they capture the true essence of friendship, it’s not all plain sailing, just as life rarely is.

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The Band Musical is pure joy, uplifting, life-affirming, laugh out loud fun. Delivering a real message of friendship, love, rediscovery and the importance of being true to yourself. You’ll reminisce, reflect, laugh and cry through this very special show but most of all you’ll leave the theatre with a full heart and a contented soul, an absolute must-see.

On at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday 30th September before beginning a national tour, tickets available here http://www.thebandmusical.com/

 

 

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.

Yazdan: 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!”

Yazdan: 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 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