It’s been a while since I’ve sat watching a show laughing away tears, but that is the situation I found myself in while watching The Band at The Regent Theatre. It was epically good.
As soon as you take your seats in the theatre, the reminiscing begins. A huge television scheme is projected on the stage curtain with rolling pages of Ceefax News (which actually lasted until 2012, if you can believe Wikipedia) reminding us of the year that was 1993 – and what a year that was! Bill Clinton was sworn in, Clint Eastwood won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Michael Jackson, UB40, Ace of Base and Take That (number one of course) were all in the charts together.
It’s a clever little way to throw your mind back to those days to remember what you were doing and who was important in your life before the show starts…
The Band follows the lives of five 16-year-old girls living in North-West England and hopelessly devoted to a nameless boy band (that we all know is Take That, right?); pretty much like every other 11 – 16 year old girl was in the early 90s. It dominated school, after-school, weekends, evenings, and in the case of one of the girls, sports clubs too. After winning tickets to a concert at the Manchester Apollo, they skip the afternoon off school and go. But the night will change their lives forever.
Before long, we are transported 20-or-so years to the future and we pick up with the estranged girls again as middle-aged adults. Eager to get the friends all back together, Rachel (played by Rachel Lumberg) enters a competition to win tickets to a reunion tour.
Yes, all of Take That’s hits are in the show, and yes, the winners of the Gary Barlow’s BBC TV talent show, Let it Shine (minus Nick Carsberg on the night), make up the boy band, but actually the story in itself is just as captivating as all of that put together. There was a perfect mix of comedy, tenderness and tragedy. The casting was genius and the production, staging, props and choreography stunning.
Before you decide to swerve it because you weren’t a fan of Take That or you think it’ll be just a glorified mega mix. Stop! The band are much more in the background than you think, and this is most definitely a production in its own right – kudos to Take That for letting the story take control.
Can we expect anything less than genius from Tim Firth? The man behind Calendar Girls has a unique talent for being able to represent women in a real sense, and you certainly see similarities to Calendar Girls in this.
Could it have resonated more with me than others? Possibly, after-all I was one of those girls in 1993. But, once the adult characters play out, I think all women (and men) will find a connection and be in the same blubbering, giggling mess as I was, and this was all by the end of Act 1.
You simply shouldn’t miss this one…
The Band Musical is on at The Regent, Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday 9th December 2017. Tickets are available from The Regent Theatre Box Office, or by calling 0844 871 7649.