The new Take That musical, The Band, arrives in Glasgow after much anticipation. Viewers of the BBC Saturday night show Let it Shine, which took an X factor style approach to casting each of the boyband actors who appear on the tour, will feel like they have been a part of the build up to the show’s arrival. No surprise, then, that The Band is now the fastest selling musical theatre tour of all time.
The Band takes us all back to the nineties. A time before YouTube, social media and reality television stars. A simpler time when bedroom walls were adorned with posters of boyband hunks from Smash Hits magazine, Top of the Pops performances were the highlight of the week and the Top 40 singles countdown on Radio One was punctuated by the latest releases from the likes of The Backstreet Boys, Boyzone and pop phenom Take That.
Jukebox musicals are big box office, with bands like Abba, Madness, Spice Girls and Queen all releasing a musical featuring their back catalogue.
The Band works harder to create an engaging performance that weaves its way through Take That anthems.
Tim Firth’s writing showcases a bombastic story of dedication, friendship, moments of grief and ultimately bucketloads of childhood nostalgia.
There’s a suitably hilarious, poignant and sweet storyline, signposting each of the memories and moments with a hit record.
The boys themselves, perhaps surprisingly, are merely musical backdrops to the story of the female protagonists.
The tale follows the lives of five individual boyband crazed best friends growing up in Manchester in 1992. They fall into different archetypes – the brainy one, the sporty one, the fashion designer, the dancer and then there is Rachel who holds them altogether with her unfaltering love and dedication to The Band who form a thread that runs through life’s ups and downs.
One night their life changes forever after a trip to a concert ends in tragedy. The story unravels 25 years later as the girls reconnect for a reunion gig and discover the different journeys they have taken in life. The story has touches of Mamma Mia and Shirley Valentine with that heady blend of comedy and emotionally-charged moments punctuated by hits such as Greatest Day, Back for Good and Relight my Fire. The choreography, particularly around some of the day-dreaming moments, is quite spectacular.
The biggest success for this musical is the fact it magnifies the ongoing adoration for Take That, who are still making number one records and selling out arena tours worldwide.
The musical segues into moments where the boys perform “gigs”, moments that provide a cue to the audience, leaping to their feet and dancing in the aisles – some still remembering the TT dance routines from over 20 years ago.
The lyrics were belted out by the Glasgow audience. There was a tangible reaction to the opening beats of favourite tracks.
If you were a teenage girl growing up in the 90s, it seems you never forget the moments where music shaped your life. The clear message is that music is all around us and can bring us great comfort in our sadness and great joy in our elation. The girls quip “We were girls of 16. We were fantastic… and we still are”. This is a celebration of boyband fever and a return to the 90s which will continue to sell out theatres on its nationwide tour.