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.
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