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/

 

 

The Band in pictures

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Official images have been released offering fans a first look at Take That and Tim Firth’s new musical, The Band, which has it’s official opening at Manchester’s Opera House tomorrow night.

The show tells the story of a group of friends for whom aged 16 The Band was their everything, now 25 years later they reunite in a bid to meet their heroes and rediscover their friendships.

Directed by Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder and featuring BBC’s Let it Shine winners Five To Five, The Band sets out on a UK tour once leaving Manchester, tickets and further information can be found here; http://www.thebandmusical.com/tour

Credit to Matt Crockett for these fantastic images.

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