Friday, 14 December 2018

 

The Band at Theatre Royal Haymarket


Five teenage girls win a competition to see their favourite band live on stage, but the night changes the course of their lives in unexpected ways. 25 years later they come back together for the first time as once more they win tickets to see The Band. During their reunion they look back on their childhoods, regrets and accomplishments, trying to reconnect with their childhood selves. Set to the backdrop of the music of 90s heart-throbs Take That performed by a quintet of performers that won their spot in the musical through TV-show Let it Shine, Tim Firth's new musical is less the story of boy band and more that of five women's life anchored through friendship, loss, reconciliation – and their love for The Band.  

The merit of jukebox musicals as a theatrical genre is often debated, with some people claiming this more cheesy form of art is just a cheap way to create a new show that doesn't hold much substance. Yet for others it is their favourite genre and they go see the ones they love most ten, twenty or more times in a row as they just can't get enough of it.

I fall somewhere in the middle. Some juxebox musicals I've seen very much enforced that first point (i.e. much slated Spice Girls musical Viva Forever, lip-synched Michael Jackson tribute act Thriller Live and, controversially, Jim Steinman's Bat Out of Hell with music made famous by Meatloaf), while others have managed to carve out a special place in my heart (for example 80s musical Rock of Ages and Queen's We Will Rock You – clearly if they put "rock" in the title, I'll fall in love with the show).

The ones I enjoyed I loved so much that I'm always open to giving a new jukebox show a chance, hoping to discover a new favourite. So while I'm slightly too young to have experienced the Take That craze the first time around, my love for some jukebox musicals had me interested and curious to see how their music would be able to transform this new Tim Firth (Calendar Girls, Our House) musical on stage.

Sadly this one was on the weaker side of jukebox musical for me. While the story was a powerful one at heart the execution didn't quite have the desired effect until the very. And for all the focus on The Band, the members being cast through a real life talent show, the performances weren't as tight as you'd expect from a boy band – especially those in a musical, which has already been touring the UK for quite some time.

If you're an existing fan of Take That and know all the songs by heart, you'll undoubtedly love reliving the nostalgia in a musical theatre setting (just PLEASE don't loudly sing, clap and dance along at inappropriate times... You're at the theatre, not a concert, people).  However, if you're not an existing fan of the music, then The Band may be somewhat underwhelming. The first act in particular is average at best, and it's not until the performers beautifully tug at our heartstrings with emotional renditions of "Back for Good" and "Rule the World" in the second act that this show really finds it feet.

And just when it's getting good, it's over. This musical is a shorter one at around 2 hours (including interval), though an additional prolonged encore stretches it out for another fifteen minutes or so. Fun for those attending that are reliving their childhood dreams of seeing Take That perform, but not adding something for other audience members.

The Band has good intentions; a nostalgia fest for 80s/90s kinds and with a beautiful story at its core. It's just a shame that the performances don't quite do the show justice and the story doesn't come into its own until the every end. For a touring production, this Tim Firth Take That musical is a fun outing to get people on their feet, but in the West End – where it has to compete with the likes of The Book of Mormon, Matilda, and Les Miserables it feels very out of place.  



The Band is playing at Theatre Royal Haymarket until 12 January 2019. Get your tickets here.


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