I think it’s important to start this review with by stating that I am not a Take That fan, nor do I have an particular knowledge about the band or its songs. The Band does not seem like the kind of show to go and see without the aforementioned knowledge; that said it is a show anyone can enjoy and that is its biggest selling point.
What The Band offers at its best is fun loving, heart string pulling story of a group of teenage girls and their desire to see ‘The Band’ (never directly referred to as Take That) live in concert, along with later the tale of the same group 25 years down the line. The plot is typical feel good movie in style, however cleverly interlaced throughout are the songs of Take That performed by ‘The Band’. These songs tie in incredibly well to the story as a whole, always poignant to the scene at hand and never feel forced. Not only do the songs themselves tie in nicely ‘The Band’ do too as they enter scenes by jumping out of lockers, beds and buses left right and centre – keeping all the scenes feeling fresh and fun, along with keeping the plot ticking over at a good rate.
It’s important to note what The Band could have become – a re-enactment of Take That’s own history in the industry telling us their story, The Band’s greatest accomplishment is that is what it isn’t. Keeping the boys as the background characters to the story as a whole has allowed writer Tim Firth to have a lot more fun with the winners of BBC’s Let It Shine, which saw Gary Barlow casting the younger versions of Take That. These 5 young actors bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to the stage every time they enter, singing and dancing their way around the scenes – despite such an extensive range of songs and dances they never seem to falter.
The stories main actors, both the older and younger versions, do a fantastic job of keeping the simple plot line engaging and fun, whether that be through the childish glee of youth or the sarcastic ‘banter’ of adulthood. Both groups have excellent chemistry with one another and seem to be having an absolute blast every time they step foot on stage. Though to not credit both groups for how they deal with the shows darker moments would be a serious oversight.
One of my main gripes of the show was the big push for audience involvement. While shouting ‘he’s behind you’ in a pantomime is something for everyone to do, jumping in and singing along to Take That songs was not something I could immediately get along with. As the show is split in two halves, the first following the teenage girls in the 90s and the second themselves today, I found it tricky to be lulled in during the first half as I simply did not know any of Take That’s older songs. By the time the second half rolled round I began recognising a few including ‘Greatest Day’, ‘Shine’ and ‘Rule the World’ and began to feel a little more inclined towards joining in, even if I didn’t really know the words.
The Band does seem to sit in a bit of a niche, somewhere between theatre and a musical but it provides a welcome relief amongst both. It is neither too heavy on the bleak, nor too reliant on the overtly happy – it strikes a balance which in turn allows it to tell a story everyone will be able to connect too. Between its solid acting, singing and dancing, along with some extravagant set pieces this is escapism theatre at its finest but not for everyone. See it if you’re a Take That fan and bring along a few friends who’ll sing along with you!