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/