Take That – Greatest Hits LIVE

Writer Kate Goerner

Regular readers of Opening Night will know that we’re pretty big fans of The Band, the musical based around the songs of Take That.

Combining a moving coming-of-age story of acceptance and loving yourself with the many hits of Gary, Robbie, Howard, Mark and Jason was a recipe for theatre magic in our (often tear-filled) eyes.

But disclaimer, we were fans of the group itself first – so as such here at Opening Night we were looking forward to going back to The Band’s roots thanks to Take That’s current Greatest Hits 2019 tour. Always theatrical, always dramatic – what would the group have in store this time?

The tour, which is in Manchester all this week, followed their recent album Odyssey – itself a tribute to those hits, reimagined.

Looming over proceedings is a giant orb, recreated from the from the Odyssey album cover, in spectacular fashion. Part stage, part projections, it really is a spectacular backdrop to the show.

And what a show! It’s as nostalgic as you’d expect – but with dazzling hi-tech staging that means the material and performances never feel old hat.

In fact it feels like the freshest tour in a while – while being a genuine love letter to a 30 year career.

There’s a feeling of the passing of the decades that’s reflected throughout the evening in the staging – from the Seventies-style Evel Knievel jumpsuits the lads wear to open the show (to the uplifting Greatest Day) to the monochrome Sixties section, the Eighties hair metal motorcycle tribute and a nice nod to the Nineties.

The hits are all there – with some real ‘lump in the throat’ moments on the big screen like a video of Robbie performing Everything Changes, or the Bee Gees in How Deep is Your Love.

We even got Mark singing Babe, a beautifully stripped back version of Pray with sign language (although we did miss the Pray dance!) and Lulu – YES LULU – joining Gary, Mark and Howard for Relight My Fire.

The evening ended in magical fashion with Rule The World complete with fireworks.

So while Opening Night hopes to see The Band hit our stages again some day, Take That prove that the original is usually the best!

Further tour information can be found here.

The Band

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The fastest selling musical theatre tour of all time returned to the North West last night to a sell-out audience and a thundering standing ovation; confirming this life-affirming, laugh out loud production first seen at Manchester’s Opera House back in September 2017 is back for good….well until Saturday 26th January at least.

The Band offers a heart-warming trip down memory lane taking us back to 1993 when for four 16 year old friends their favourite boyband was literally their everything. They lived, breathed and worshipped at the TV when Top of the Pops came on, anything for their idols who provided the soundtrack to their lives and for one a much needed escape from reality. We then fast forward 25 years to a place where life has moved on, friendships have diminished but somewhere deep down a love for The Band continues to flicker and could be the key to bringing the girls back together again.

What comes next is an emotional, relatable and incredibly funny journey of not only self-discovery but also a much longed for opportunity to reconnect with each other and remember the hopes and dreams of their sixteen year old selves.

The Band opened to four and five star reviews last time it was in Manchester almost eighteen months ago; I loved it then and can confirm it’s even slicker now. While its charm and relatability remains there’s an added joy that comes from the deepening of the cast’s on stage chemistry, for this story to touch audiences the characters absolutely had to be believable, they feel authentic, lovable and even more real than they did before.

The five actresses playing the younger girls are outstanding, their delivery of uncomplicated and innocent friendship entirely believable. Full of life and boundless energy Faye Christall, Rachelle Diedericks, Katy Clayton, Lauren Jacobs and Sarah Kate Howarth tell their story with all the energy and enthusiasm of a sixteen year old on the cusp of life’s adventures. Jubilant, frivolous and here for the fun, then packing an emotional punch when tragedy strikes, each character is beautifully developed and unique from the next.

Playing the wide-eyed teens 25 years on are four outstanding actresses; hilarious, surprising and above all entirely relatable. Their journey of reconciliation perfectly embodying the reality of fragmented friendships; Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna more than do justice to Tim Firth’s uplifting script and through the duration of the evening have the audience both fighting back the tears and roaring with laughter. There is heartache, celebration, great humour and above all great heart.

BBC’s Let It Shine stars AJ Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Harry Brown, Nick Carsberg and Yazdan Qafouri deliver some stunning harmonies and slick choreography as the members of The Band.  The musical arrangements add something new to Take That songs we’ve heard so many times before, there’s a deeper significance to the lyrics as the boys intertwine them subtly into scenes to both powerful and even at times comedic effect.

Jon Bausor’s multi-layered set transforms from teenage bedroom to busy airport with ease while directors Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder ensure the cast utilise every inch of the expansive set.

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The Band musical really is the perfect package, a beautiful story delivered in a real and honest way. While you will more than likely laugh as well as cry you will undoubtedly leave feeling uplifted, deeply moved and enormously entertained.

Cathch The Band at The Lowry until Saturday 26th January tickets available

The Band head to The Lowry!

 

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Due to overwhelming public demand, Tim Firth’s smash-hit new musical, The Band, featuring the music of Take That, will return to the North West with a stop at The Lowry from Wednesday 16th until Saturday 26th January 2018.

The show which we gave a well-deserved five stars. is produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers and Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams takes audiences 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.

With superb direction from Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder, The Band has quickly become the fastest selling touring musical of all time as the show continues to delight audiences across the country.

Ticket information can be found here.

The Band

Opening Night rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Band Q

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 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 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