Book by Tim Firth with the Music of Take That.
Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London SW1 4HT to 12 January.
Mon- Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7930 8800
Review: William Russell 6 December
Ladies night out lads
As boy band musicals go this one written by Tim (Calendar Girls) Firth is easy on the eye and the ear but not particularly memorable. It plunders, with their consent, Take That’s back catalogue and while not all the songs quite fit the action they are performed adequately by five pretty boys who won the roles in a television show contest. The innovative thing about the show is that the boys are not the stars of the night, but merely an extremely busy the chorus line.
The story focuses instead on five sixteen year old girls who play hookey in 1993 to attend a concert given by the band of their dreams. They swear remain lifelong friends, but we all know that once they leave school their lives go in different directions and they do. One of them 25 years later wins four tickets to Prague and tickets for a concert by the band in one of those radio contests and decides to ask her three surviving friends – one is no longer with them.
Off they go, miss the concert, have a lovely time in Prague, discover that they did not become what they had planned, renew their friendship and that is that. Meanwhile the five boys sing some of the songs, play all the supporting male roles, change their costumes with breathtaking speed, show their torsos to advantage, and occasionally appear as the band, whose members do not, like its fans, deteriorate with the passage of the years but remain forever young.
The boys never give any indication they could be a hit boy band but rather a perfectly decent tribute act, while the five girls when young are just agreeable. It is the four mature ladies who playing them in 2018 – Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjon, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna – who carry the show – with a little help from the equally mature Andy Williams who plays the roles the boys are too young to play.
Mama Mia, the greatest back catalogue show of all time, is no great shakes as a story but it used the Abba back catalogue brilliantly, and ensured the songs chosen fitted the action. Here they seem plonked in regardless, there only because if omitted the Take That fans would complain, and Firth’s plot is thin to the point of transparency.
There are some pluses. It has been directed efficiently, the set uses back projections to good effect – at one point a jet plane seems to soar off the stage and into the auditorium – the choreography is slick and energetic, and there are the four leading ladies who are all splendid.
At the end everyone is invited to get up and dance, which they do. But were the show really good they would have done so regardless. Feminists may find the treatment of the women, especially middle aged ones, not to their taste but that would be to give the concoction an importance it does not deserve. The Band is what it is, take that or leave it, an efficiently staged and well performed show designed to cash in on that back catalogue.
Rachel: Rachel Lumberg.
Claire: Alison Fitzjohn.
Heather: Emily Joyce.
Zoe: Jayne Mckenna.
The Band – A J Bently, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan oafouri, Sana Solomon.
Everyone called Dave: Andy Williams.
Young Rachel: Faye Christall.
Young Heather: Katy Clayton.
Debbie: Rachelle Dedericks.
Young Claire: Sarah Kate Howarth.
Young Zoe: Lauren Jacobs.
Jeff: Martin Miller.
Directors: Kim Gavin & Jack Ryder.
Musical Director: John Donovan.
Designer: Jon Bauer.
Choreographer: Kim Gavin.
Lighting Designer: Patrick Woodroffe.
Video Designer: Luke Hals.
Sound Designer: Terry Jardine & Nick Lidster For Autograph
Production Photography: Matt Crockett.