Review - Take That musical The Band at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
Theatregoers are advised to have a little patience with this new Take That jukebox. With the blessing of the band, unlike 2007 effort Never Forget, Tim Firth tells the story of friendship and nostalgia. While it’s hard to deny the hits of Take That as a great soundtrack, The Band is let down by a story that panders to its audience.
That said, there’s not even much in the way of a plot here anyway. Five girls bunk off school after winning a competition to see their favourite boy band (never actually named; only referred to as ‘the boys’). Twenty-five years later, after the friends have gone their separate ways, they are reunited when one wins yet another competition to see the group in Prague (conveniently winning four tickets, since one of the fivesome is killed on the way home from the first gig).
And that’s pretty much it in the way of a story. Other jukebox musicals in the West End at the moment offer the dystopian underworlds of Bat Out of Hell, or brutal realities of domestic violence in Tina. Here, we get four middle-aged women sat in a Czech jail reminiscing about being younger. It can be sweet, and I’m fully aware that as a man in his early twenties I am far from this show’s target audience, but I’d be on board if that story was better executed.
From the blunt foreshadowing of the younger friends wondering where they’ll be together in 25 years, to off-kilter jokes the older mates make about one putting on weight, the script is flimsy, fickle and frankly boring.
The eponymous band pop-up in every other scene, either recreating Take That’s routines in a gig environment or channelling the ladies’ conscience through the band’s biggest songs. They’re played by talent show winners-cum-dodgy tribute band, Five to Five. The baby-faced boy band are apt street dancers and pull off Kim Gavin’s routines – one has a fine skill for jumping off stairs from a height – but struggle to get any real power behind the varied songs from the TT repertoire that spans both pre- and post-hiatus.
Stronger moments come when we watch the band perform in concert. Many of the creative team, including director Gavin, have worked on Take That live shows for decades, and cleverly reference the group, from routines featuring the group’s cover art, to recreations of iconic costumes. There’s everything you want from a decent pop concert, but it just doesn’t translate well as a stage show.
The Band follows Gary Barlow and Firth’s last collaboration on The Girls, a musical adaptation of the Calendar Girls story. If The Band could borrow half of the heart that show had, it might be an engaging piece of theatre.
The Band tickets are available now.