REVIEW: THE BAND (New Wimbledon Theatre) ★★★

Following on from the incredible Calendar Girls musical, Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s Take That musical The Band is a touring production I have been dying to see since the television show Let It Shine selected five winners to form the boyband that would go on to star in the musical. Playing in Wimbledon this week, ahead of a Christmas run in the West End, I went along to see the show but sadly left a little underwhelmed.

It’s 1993 and four school girls are obsessed with the latest boyband they see on Top Of The Pops. They bunk off of school to go and see them in concert but on the way home, a disaster occurs that tears the friendship circle apart and the girls drift away from each other. Twenty Five years later, their favourite band are doing a reunion tour and one of the girls wins a competition to go and see the band perform live in Prague. So despite having no contact since school, Rachel reaches out to the girls via Facebook and they all set off for an adventure to see their favourite band and reminisce about old times and how their lives didn’t exactly go according to plan.

Take That’s back catalogue of greatest hits is performed on stage by The Band (Let It Shine winners Five to Five) in a concert style in between scenes. I did wonder whilst watching them, if when they auditioned for the TV show, they imagined they would be dressed as singing greek statues or if they imagined this would be their chance to do something more.

The girls set off to Prague on a budget airline which fits perfectly with this musical’s budget production. The set is flimsy and with one of the boys not performing on the night I saw the show, I was surprised to still see pictures and projections of the full band throughout the show when in fact an understudy was performing. Surely additional photography could have been taken featuring the understudy for the tour that could be shown when the full band weren’t performing. It seemed a little lazy.

The acting and singing can’t be faulted. Both the girls and the boys do their job but the script is cheesy and the songs haven’t even been attempted to fit in with the story. You could draw comparisons to the flop musical Viva Forever a few years back which used the music of the Spice Girls but at least that show tried to integrate the songs into the story.

The hoards of women in the audience of the New Wimbledon Theatre whooped and screamed throughout the show just like they did back in the 90’s  and loved every second of it. I remember when Take That announced they were splitting up. I was on a school trip to France and the girls were all distraught. In the UK suicide helplines had to be set up because the country took the split so badly and so I can understand why this musical has been a long time coming for many fans.

The Band does what it says on the tin and will please adoring Take That fans. It just could have been so much more than it actually was.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

Photo: Matt Crockett


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