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The Band. Milton Keynes Theatre

The Band is a new musical based on the music of Take That and it’s no secret that Take That and they have been personally involved in making this show happen. However, what I was not expecting was it to be a fabulous show for anyone who had a poster of any band or artist on their wall as a teenager. This show is an emotional roller coaster that pulls at the heart strings, it will have you crying and laughing in equal measure.

Top Of The Pops (TOTP) is shown every Thursday and the next day in school it is all you can talk about. Who hasn’t been there? Rachel and her four friends are so excited about seeing their band on TV and hearing the new song. Debbie entered a competition and tells her friends that they have won tickets to see the band. They are beyond excited! They all go to the show but hanging around afterwards they don’t get to meet their idols. They have no money for the last bus home but blag their way onto it until their singing antics get them thrown off. They walk to the hill and see their town in the distance. It almost looks pretty with the car headlights from up there. The five girls make a pact to meet up in 25 years’ time. ‘Well we don’t need that pact because we won’t lose touch’ they say. Debbie gives them all a band from the gig to remember this evening. (So, The Band isn’t just about a musical band but a friendship band too – very clever!).

Rachel (Faye Christall) is the main character portrayed as a chubby girl. Her friends are Debbie (Rachelle Diedricks) who is the cool one, Claire (Sarah Kate Howarth) the sporty one, Zoe (Lauren Jacobs) the geeky one and Heather (Katy Clayton) the loud and flirty one. No its not the Spice Girls! All give fabulous performances of their characters. The girls feel real. They are you and I when we were kids and they speak to our inner teen. We (the audience) get them.

25 years later after another competition Rachel contacts the others to ask if they fancy going to Prague to see the reunion tour? How have they changed? Are they really deep down still the same teenagers? Seeing how they have changed was portrayed by some fantastic acting by Jayne McKenna, Emily Joyce, Rachel Lumberg and Alison Fitzjohn.

Five To Five are the five boys who won The BBC’s Let It Shine show to win their place on stage. Sario, AJ, Curtis, Nick and Yazdan are not trying to be Take That and that’s a good thing as there is only one Take That. Instead they interpret the songs in their own way and deliver the songs really well. They can dance too and have some very funny moments such as popping out of the school lockers. The bus driver/school caretaker/roadie etc was all played by Andy Williams and his dry wit was perfect to deliver a really funny performance that added some light humour after some of the darker moments.

The show has been cleverly constructed. A really good story with songs delivered from Five To Five and then the proper Take That touches that only a die-hard fan would know. Shine using the same lighting as the video; The cloud umbrellas that are sold at the shows; using the TT image and even Five To Five using the progress image during The Flood. The range of songs also made the show loved by die-hards and non-fans alike. All the songs fitted the scenes perfectly and it was enjoyable to hear snippets here and there when Rachel was talking to herself. She even says ‘quiet boys’ when she wants time to herself and they sing quieter. The songs include big hits like Patience, Rule The World, Shine, The Flood, Back For Good, Pray and Relight My Fire as well as early hits such as Could It Be Magic, It Only Takes a Minute and Do What You Like. It also features lesser known songs such as The Garden and Get Ready For It. Something for everyone.

I know how hard Take That work to make their shows perfect and this musical is no exception. Every cast member delivers a flawless performance. This isn’t just a musical for Take That fans. It’s there for anyone who knows friendship. Anyone who has known love of an idol. Anyone who watched TOTP religiously and for anyone who secretly inside still nurtures their teen me.

Gary Barlow believes the success of The Band musical is about friendship and not Take That music. He says, ‘I think that friendship really resonates with people. Even the idea of the friendship – if you sat us down then we’d all say that friendship is what is at the heart of Take That. It has kept our work strong; we’ve been a gang. Mark Owen says it’s about Nostalgia. ‘It brought me back to when I was a teenager knocking about with my mates and the dreams that I had then. It made me contact old friends after I saw it. People slip from us as we get busy with life, but the show made me reminisce. It was like a pause button.’ And me, what did I think of it? In my opinion this show is absolutely superb and is appeals to a mass audience. Join in. Hold up a light (for me) and Shine. You will want to do this show again and again. Totally stupendous!

The Band is in Milton Keynes Theatre until 9 March.

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