Take That are proud to present their new musical with a beautiful story written by the Olivier Award winning writer Tim Firth, is for anyone who grew up with a boyband.

It’s 1993 and for five 16 year old girls, the band is everything. Join us, as this group of girls who were once inseparable, reunite after 25 years apart and try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting the boyband whose music became the soundtrack to their lives.

The Band features the music of Take That, Britain’s most successful boyband of all time, whose songs include Never Forget, Back for Good, A Million Love Songs, Greatest Day, The Flood, Relight My Fire, Shine and Rule the World and stars Five to Five, the winners from BBC’s Let It Shine.

The Band has now become one of the most successful musical theatre tours ever. 

We all know the feeling: a tune we remember from our teenage years comes on, and we’re instantly transported back in time, as memories of old haunts and old friends come flooding to our minds. Tapping into the nostalgia that songs seem almost uniquely apt to spark, Tim Firth’s hotly anticipated Take That musical, The Band, breaks with a tradition of jukebox-style biopics, instead putting music lovers and listeners centre-stage. Ahead of its arrival in Stoke-on-Trent, we asked him more about the story he describes as a perfect way for Take That to show fans how much their devotion means to them. 

“It must have been over 15 years ago that Gary Barlow and I first discussed the idea of a musical, but at that point, I didn’t know where to start with it,” says Firth. “I’d done one musical with existing music by Madness, but that was because I’d felt there was a story hiding in their lyrics. There’s got to be a reason for doing a musical that isn’t just cashing in.

“It wasn’t until years later, when Gary said he’d been approached by the BBC to do a talent show, that I hit on the idea of casting the band in a fundamentally different role, and it changed everything. Now, instead of pretending the songs were written for the show, we have them performing the same function in the lives of the characters that they would in real life - so they’re on the radio, in the characters’ heads, at concerts or being sung along to by the girls.”

The story revolves around the lives of five teenagers, all big fans of the same pop group. When they discover that the band will be performing in their hometown, they’re eager to attend together. But on the night of the gig, disaster strikes, ultimately causing the friends to split apart. More than 20 years later, however, the band reforms, leading the characters to a reunion of their own. 

“It’s partly based on two different true stories. One involved a group of friends I know, who went through a tragedy together. In their case, it actually brought them all much closer together, but it made me think about what might have happened if things had gone the other way. 

“But ultimately they’re just five ordinary girls at school, so whether you see yourself in one of them or they remind you of someone you know, everybody should recognise them. And anyone can identify with the journey they go on, whether or not they’ve been through something similar. I think what a lot of people find moving about the show is not so much the loss they deal with as the journey back to positivity and optimism, and being reminded of the value of friendship to help us through tough times.”

Featuring the characters at two different stages in their lives has required some special considerations for the casting and rehearsal process.

“Even though some of the women have completely changed from how they were at the age of 16, we have to believe that these are the same characters. Partly that’s to do with casting, but it isn’t just a case of finding lookalikes. In rehearsals, we’ve had the girls watching the women and vice versa, so that they pick up little traits and ways of speaking from each other - even certain catchphrases.”

The TV talent show that prompted Firth to reconsider what might be done with a Take That musical was of course Let It Shine, with winners Five To Five now appearing in the show as the band. But as he explains, it’s not quite as straightforward as them simply playing Take That. 

“While the series was still running, the press kept saying that they’d heard the boys wouldn’t be the leads and were just going to be backing singers, and all the time I was smiling to myself thinking, ‘Just wait, hold your nerve!’

“I think until they actually come to see it, it’s quite hard for people to imagine what this story is. Even though the boys don’t have a single word of dialogue, every time they sing, it feels like they’re commenting on the story or nudging the girls into action, almost like an old-fashioned Greek chorus. They’re a constant presence that keeps changing -  moving in and out of different roles. So at one point they might be workers in an airport, and at another time they might step out of a music video on TV. They must have 20 or 30 costume changes between them, and they also move the set around and facilitate the changing of one scene to another, so they’ve got loads to do.”

Interestingly, neither Take That nor its members are ever actually called by name, usually simply dubbed “the band” or “the boys” by the characters. Even the title of the show can also refer to the wristbands the girls wear to the concert, rather than directly to the group itself. 

“Whenever I put the words Take That or Gary or Robbie into the script, which I did a little bit at the start, the story absolutely threw them back at me. It didn’t work. And that I took to be it saying, ‘Look, this is a much more universal story. This isn’t just about people who like Take That. It’s about music and the power of song in its broadest sense.’

“Songs are unique in their ability to retain parts of our lives, like little treasure chests. And regardless of what sort of thing you listen to, if you have music in your life, you’ll understand that and be able to enjoy this story.”

The Band shows at the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, from Tuesday 28 November to Saturday 9 December, and at Birmingham Hippodrome from Tuesday 1 to Saturday 12 May. 

Interview by Heather Kincaid

on Mon, 23 Oct 2017

Despite being co-produced by Take That and featuring their music, Tim Firth’s show is not a story about Britain’s most successful boyband of all time. It’s actually a story about the fans, the power music can have over people and, as Firth himself says, how music ‘makes time travellers of us all’.

For five teenage girls in 1992, ‘The Boys’ and their music are everything. The band distracts Rachel from her constantly arguing parents and inspires Debbie to pursue her love of dance. But the important lesson that the show addresses is that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Twenty-five years later, the girls attempt to rekindle their friendship with a trip to a concert by the band they loved so dearly as teenagers. But none of their lives have turned out quite the way they swore they would back in their long-ago school days. 

The music of Take That is a brilliant aid to the storyline, and in some ways the show feels more like a concert. Audience participation is encouraged and much in evidence. With all the band’s best-known hits packed into the production - as well as the fantastic choreography and dance ability of Let It Shine winners Five To Five (who play The Boys), it’s hardly surprising that everyone was singing along and waving their hands in the air. The ending was spectacular; the audience stood with torches held high as the cast sang some of Take That’s best-known hits.

Without taking away from the cast’s performances, the stage design was perhaps the most impressive part of the entire production, transforming with ease from a teenage girl’s bedroom, to a bus, to an airplane, to a fountain in Prague, and doing so with the assistance of very few extra props or pieces of set. 

Each scene is perfectly aligned with the dancing of Five To Five and the rest of the cast, creating impressive routines that burst into the foreground at all song-worthy moments. 

The whole thing may sound corny on paper - and often it is - but this is offset by the clever humour and witty one-liners that are much in evidence throughout the production. The more minor characters of Martin Miller’s Jeff and Andy Williams’ every Dave make telling contributions to the humour - particularly Jeff, when he meets Rachel at the airport and recites Take That lyrics from flashcards he’s made. The younger incarnations of the girls are given the best of the show’s gags. Katy Clayton’s Heather, in particular, delivers them with real sass. The chemistry between the characters is tangible - in both their younger and older guises - and despite being a primarily upbeat, feelgood musical, the show has its fair share of touching moments too. 

Given the size of Take That’s back catalogue, it’s hardly surprising that a jukebox musical has been created to accommodate their body of work. The real surprise is just how effectively the whole production comes together, the music tying in seamlessly with the plot and allowing the show to well and truly shine.

The Band shows at Birmingham Hippodrome until 12 May.

Tickets are available HERE

***** Ellie Hutchings

5 Stars on Wed, 02 May 2018

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