Review: ★★★★ The Band, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Review: ★★★★ The Band, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Ah, another jukebox musical. You could be forgiven for thinking that clearly, people have run out of new songs to write (not the case) or that there are still some huge Take That fans out there (definitely the case). Unusually, The Band does not fall within one of the usual jukebox categories of ‘ridiculous’ (We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia) or ‘Biographical’ (Jersey Boys, Beautiful etc). Nor do you have to be a Take That Super Fan to enjoy it. Instead, Tim Firth’s funny and nostalgic story tells a plausible, if not likely, tale of girls united by obsession with this multi award winning band. The Band sends its audience right back to 1993 as they enter the auditorium, with a huge projection of Ceefax. It proceeds to deliver something for everyone to relate to, from the band fandom to the stereotypes of the girls at school; from the inevitable drifting of adult friendships to the perhaps even more inevitable surprises when a group of girls is reunited 25 years later.

While set around very well known songs, this is not a show about Take That, which is refreshing to say the least. The songs sound brilliant in their respective contexts and not entirely sung by the boyband, but they almost fade into the background of the beautiful, though basic, story told by the female characters who are well developed and thought out. Faye Christall and Rachel Lumberg’s gutsy portrayals of Young Rachel and Rachel respectively could carry the show alone – although they don’t have to as the entire cast is excellent. The young girls are painfully stereotypical and cliche but equally familiar and a joy to watch as they bound with energy, and their songs feel fun and uplifting whereas the older women’s numbers can feel a little like a concert at times.

The Band is not vocally impressive, nor is the choreography memorable, and the set won’t blow your mind – but this beautifully performed show might just be exactly what British Theatre needs entering 2019. Don’t go if you’re offended by ‘Bad Theatre Etiquette’, or if you’re looking for a daring, outrageous piece of theatre. Do go if you want a fun night out with considerably more substance than many of the other light hearted options available.

Emma Betty

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