by Maxwell Modell
Wales Millennium Centre, 9th January 2018
A Take That musical! Why has no one ever thought of that before? After all, jukebox musicals are all the rage at the moment, from Abba to Queen to Michael Jackson to The Beatles, everyone’s got one and Take That are practically a British institution, so it was only right they got their shot with The Band.
So, was it a success? Unequivocally yes. YES, YES, YES!
The Band celebrates friendship, nostalgia, fans and boybands (and yes, I agree that boybands are worth celebrating, what’s not to like about attractive young men singing and performing complex choreography?). It’s a must-see. In moments it made me laugh, cheer, have a tear in my eye, but most of all smile. It was the ultimate feel-good experience. Whatever your opinion is on Gary Barlow, one thing which isn’t in doubt is that he can write a great pop song and that is what carries this musical.
The plot surprisingly does not follow the story of Take That, instead deciding to tell the smaller story of a group of teenage girls in the 90s for whom ‘the band’ is everything, focusing on their friendship and reunion 25 years later when life hasn’t quite turned out as they planned, but they still have ‘the band’ and memories of when they were inseparable and untouchable. Written by Tim Firth of Kinky Boots and Calendar Girls fame the writing isn’t revolutionary and often feels a little cheap, particularly with some key plot points and jokes. However, this doesn’t really matter. The characters are relatable and most jokes hit. Throughout, the story is driven by a relentless feel-good energy allowing me to forgive some of the cheap writing, after all, the show is designed to entertain and entertain it does.
The whole cast is very strong, and it is difficult to pick a stand out performer as they were all incredible. On top of a traditional cast, the musical also stars Five to Five following their success on BBC talent show Let It Shine who portray the eponymous band. In many ways, this felt like Take That passing on the torch to the next generation of boy bands. The performance showcased their singing chops, dance moves, and good humour, all the ingredients needed to be a great boy band. While they portrayed ‘the band’, they are definitely more than just a fictional band in a musical, they are a real band, with real ambitions and real talent and it shows. Made up of AJ, Curtis, Sario, Nick and Yazdan I think they have a really exciting future beyond The Band. The next Take That? Only time will tell.
While it didn’t dampen the overall experience, the show was sadly burdened with some minor technical difficulties, having to take a break halfway through the first act. This did halt the momentum that the first half had built up, however, it didn’t take long to rebuild and then majorly surpass this momentum. These difficulties can also be seen as a blessing in disguise, as it allowed the sound team to improve the mixing which initially had the vocals too low. However, this shouldn’t put you off the show, as teething problems often tend to occur on opening night in a new venue.
The press night ended with a special surprise performance by Take That themselves who joined the cast in a final sing along, changing the Millennium Centre from a theatre to a Stadium concert. This added even more energy to an already ecstatic crowd who had been dancing and cheering along with the cast following the announcer proclaiming, “it was your show all along”, leading into the curtain call. And you know what, it did feel like our show, like a show for the fans.
The Band will be at the Welsh Millennium Centre until 20th January and tickets are available here.