Review: The Band at The Lowry

Back in January 2017 the talent show Let It Shine hit our TV screens searching for five young lads to star in a new musical featuring the music of Take That.

It discovered AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon (christened Five to Five)- all of who swiftly became a ready-made boyband taking to the stage in a UK and Ireland tour of The Band.

The public were eager to see what it was all about and critics, (like me), were hoping that it wouldn’t be just another jukebox musical. It wasn’t.

Nearly 18 months since it opened, The Band has proved to be a major hit – one that has just witnessed a hugely successful run in London’s West End. The show is now back on tour and playing at The Lowry in Salford until January 26th – giving audiences in the North the chance to catch it if they didn’t the first time around.

Newbies to the show would be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a Take That biopic but trust me none will be disappointed when they discover the fact it doesn’t chart the rise to fame of Howard, Gary, Robbie, Mark and Jason.

In fact, the musical follows the lives of five teenage girls who share a love of the same boyband and, in the process, become the best of friends helping each other through trials and tribulations both at home and at school. When tragedy hits, it tears the girls apart until 25 years later when a reunion is on the cards.

Starring as the girls are original cast members Faye Christall (Rachel), Katy Clayton (Heather), Rachel Diedericks (Debbie), Sarah Kate Howarth (Claire) and Lauren Jacobs (Zoe), a talented bunch of young actresses all of whom light up the stage.

Writer Tim Firth (the genius behind both Calendar Girls and The Girls) has managed to cleverly create a bunch of characters that has the audience sat there deciding which one of them they are most like – a bit like choosing which Spice Girls you’d be!

Katy Clayton continues to be a revelation as the young Heather Carter relishing in every witty one liner Firth has gifted her. Clayton puts her all into the role and is definitely one to watch out for.

Taking on the older versions of the friends are Rachel Lumberg (Rachel), Alison Fitzjohn (Claire), Emily Joyce (Heather) and Jayne McKenna (Zoe) each giving sterling performances and creating a rapport which is electric.

The actresses take you on an emotional rollercoaster which sees you laughing with them one minute and crying with them the next. Rachel Lumberg gets the loudest laughs and deservedly so, her dry comic timing is just perfect and she is fabulous to watch.

All of the onstage action is of course set to the soundtrack of one of the biggest boybands of all time – Take That, and if you are a fan of their music then this is the ultimate treat with hits such as Relight My Fire, Pray and Rule The World belted out by the Five to Five boys who play the ‘band’.

Since being on tour it’s clear the lads have not just grown up physically but they have also grown into their roles becoming real pros. Just like when their inspiration (and producers of the show) Take That reformed, the five of them seem to have become slicker, more confident versions of themselves and ten times more self-assured as when they first started.

Press night sadly saw band member Sario fall ill just before the curtain went up, so understudy Harry Fabulous Brown (yes that’s his name) got his chance to shine. Harry did a brilliant job and for those who had never seen the show before you would have thought he had been part of it from day one.

Elsewhere the other lads were on top form, dancing and singing their socks (or should I say tops) off. Curtis T Johns is still by far the best vocalist of the five and the comparisons between him and a certain Mr Barlow cannot be ignored.

The whole production seems more polished and, this time around, comes complete with some upgraded costumes and changes to the set which really adds to the magic of the show as a whole.

It’s one of the most heart-warming and uplifting musicals that I have seen and if you have ever been a fan of a boyband or grew up in the 90s you need to see The Band whilst it is in town.

To quote the Take That boys themselves, it’s a night you will Never Forget.

The Band runs at The Lowry, Salford until 26th January.

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