DramaFamilyMusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Band – The Grand, Leeds

Writer: Tim Firth

Director: Kim Gavin and Jack Rider

Featuring the music of Take That

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

What do you get if you cross the biggest boy band of the nineties and a room full of fans aged 30-ish and above (and possibly their Mums)? Why, The Band Of course – and it is apparently the hottest ticket in Leeds this week, judging by the packed audience.

Making its way around the country before settling in the West End in December, The Band tells the familiar story of Rachel, Claire, Heather and Zoe, four forty-something ladies united in their teens by a manic love of that nineties staple, the boy band. The plot spans 25 years, from a fateful first gig to an out of the blue reunion, focusing on the journey of these superfans, rather than the Band of the title. A poignant mix of side-splitting humour and tear wrenching occurrences ensues, guaranteed to leave the audience feeling as exhausted and giddy as if they have really spent the night dancing to their teen idols.

The cast are superb. The boyband members (off stage who are known as Five To Five) were famously chosen in the Prime Time Reality TV series Let It Shine, and admirably live up to expectations. Their imitation of cheesy boyband moves is spot on, and the era-specific costumes and Top of the Pops inspired set from Jon Bausor serves to up the nostalgia their very presence inspires to delightful levels. The worry with such a premise is that they will fall into tribute band territory – happily, Five to Five manage to avoid this pitfall by making Take That’s songs their own. But of course, they are only background dancers to the main headliners. The dual casting of each principle woman, as a 16-year-old and 41-year-old, means the audience gets double chance to relate to their character and story – every woman there can tell you if they are a Rachel, Claire, Heather or Zoe (or childhood friend Debbie). And their stories, while dramatic, and so real, and acted so well, that you can almost forget it is a theatre production and not a chat with your childhood friends. Actors Rachel Lumberg (Rachel), Alison Fitzjohn (Claire), Emily Joyce (Heather), Jayne McKenna (Zoe) are to be commended for this. Although the scene stealer award must go to Andy Williams as a range of random Daves.

Beyond all of this, however, is the sheer joy of what The Band represents. At the core, it is a heartfelt tale about the dreams of childhood, the escapist obsessions cultivated as teenagers, and the often harsh reality of adulthood. Meaty subjects for light entertainment presented against an uplifting backdrop of good old pop music. It doesn’t matter if your Band was Take That or Boyzone, One Direction or JLS, The Beatles or David Cassidy – if you have ever loved a boyband, you will love The Band.

Runs until 31 March 2018 | Image: Matt Crockett

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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