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All production photos:
Matt Crockett

THE BAND

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Tim during rehearsals

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theatre and Tim Firth

The Band

 

THE BAND - the new musical by Tim Firth & Take That
TAKE THAT present their brand new musical THE BAND featuring the winners of BBCs Let it Shine. The new musical written by Tim Firth with the music of TAKE THAT is currently touring across the UK having opened in Manchester in September 2017. See the What'sOn page for tour dates.

Book by Tim Firth
Music by Take That
Director - Kim Gavin, Jack Ryder
Choreographer - Kim Gavin
Design - Jon Bausor
Lighting - Patrick Woodroffe
Sound - Terry Jardine, Nick Lidster
Video - Luke Halls
Production Manager - Kate West

Musicians

Musical Director/Keyboard -Mark Aspinall
Saxophone/Keyboard 2 - Richard Beesley
Guitar/Acoustic Guitar - Tim Sandiford
Drums - Stu Roberts
Bass - John Mckenzie

 

‘The band were largely under the impression that the story would be a biography of Take That. What had in fact emerged was a story about songs’ Tim Firth

 

" It tells the story of long-time friends meeting up for a reunion concert of Take That. Twenty five years after they were 16-year-old school friends who won a competition to see the group in Manchester, one of them has now won tickets to see them in Prague." MARK SHENTON

See Tim's i newspaper article for more about the storyline... (below)

 

The Cast

The Cast
Rachel - Rachel Lumberg
Rachel - Faye Christall
Heather - Emily Joyce
Heather - Katy Clayton
Claire - Alison Fitzjohn
Claire - Sarah Kate Howarth
Zoe - Jayne McKenna
Zoe - Lauren Jacobs
Debbie - Rachelle Diedericks
Jeff - Martin Miller
Every Dave - Andy Williams

Understudies
Maddy Banks, Claudia Bradley, Harry Brown, Jamie Corner, Claire Eden, Michael Geary,
Catherine Higgins.

The Band
AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri
& Sario Solomon
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Interview

 

TIM FIRTH writes in the i Newspaper

The musical is a predatory animal. It has historically roamed the cultural landscape in search of sources on which to feed – books, plays and increasingly of late, films. This is understandable. Having one reliable dramatic component means at least one leg of your stool might bear weight. Until recently the musical’s primary prey has been for the book, ie the story of the show, around which original lyrical and musical material would then be written.
Recently of course a branch has developed which turns this on its head, in which the musical and lyrical material is drawn from existing catalogues meaning the book writer is suddenly the one under pressure to carve something out of the rock.

Some years ago I wrote one such musical, Our House, with the band Madness and vowed that they were the only band with whom I would undertake such a musical, simply because the songs (which I loved) seemed to abound with story. I felt they were a musical in mosaic waiting to be discovered.

‘The band were largely under the impression that the story would be a biography of Take That. What had in fact emerged was a story about songs’

Some years back Gary Barlow and I were in the middle of writing a musical based on Calendar Girls (and by ‘middle’ I mean about two and a half years in) when an idea was mooted of a musical featuring the music of Take That. I said we should instead concentrate on writing musicals featuring original material.

We did this, for another year, until a meeting between Gary and the BBC heard this idea floated again, culminating this time in the proposal of a talent show to find five guys to feature in it (an idea that would eventually become the BBC talent show Let It Shine).

When this got reported back I fired a warning – if they seriously thought they could find five guys who could sing and dance and act over the short course of some tv show auditions, they were mad. It had taken us months of tireless searching to find three younger kids we needed for The Girls.

Then of course I went back home and started to think. What if the boys didn’t act? What if they just sang and danced? This would immediately place them in the position of something approaching the pop version of a Greek chorus. This meant they could comment on action just by singing. They could impel characters to act by singing. Or by being silent. They could stop a young girl having the second spoonful of sugar on her cornflakes that in her heart she already knows she shouldn’t have…

In that moment I was taken back to an image of a young girl in a movie I tried to write years ago about a 16-year old girl in the north west of England. I never quite made the script work but it was going to have songs in it by a friend of mine called Gary Barlow.

 ‘I said, if they seriously thought they could find five guys who could sing and dance and act over the short course of some tv show auditions, they were mad’

I suddenly wondered what that girl would be like all these years later, now in her early forties. I wondered what happens to a girl whose favourite band were so much in her head that they appeared to be physically in her kitchen when she had breakfast.

A story started to appear about a girl and the woman she became, and the way in which the songs they shared were a time tunnel between their two worlds.

This provided one huge liberating factor. The songs didn’t have to be lyrically relevant in the way they had been in Our House. They just had to be tonally relevant. Emotionally relevant. The right song at the right time. They would only exist in the musical in the way they would have existed in the lives of the characters.

No attempt would be made to suggest the songs were written for the musical. Maybe for that reason the first draft took less than three weeks to write; at no point did I choose the songs. Every time, the story went to the shelf and got down the song it needed for itself.
‘It was a story where you could almost slide out the music of Take That and slot in the music of another long-lasting band and it would mean the same’

And this was when the strangest thing started to happen. As soon as you make the decision that the lyrics don’t have to be relevant, those lyrics perversely rebel. Songs which you rightly assumed were intended as love songs, when sung in a different narrative climate started to take on a different meaning.

It got to the point where I stopped trying to avoid it happening, capitulated and even acknowledged it in the script; a character says that when a tragedy occurred “the first thing that changed were the songs. Words to love songs suddenly reared up and stung like nettles”. And they do. Just as a cliff face presents a different shape depending on where you stand, the meaning of song lyrics change shape depending on where you stand emotionally.
Last July in a hot glass room in Kilburn we sat Gary, Howard and Mark down to hear the musical sung through. They, like everyone else, were largely under the impression that the story would be a biography of the band. That was the title, after all. What had in fact emerged of course was a story about songs and the way in which they become a magical synapse in peoples’ lives.

The Band

AJ Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Sario Solomon, Yazdan Qafouri and Nick Carsberg in The Band. Photo: Matt Crockett


It was a story where you could almost slide out the music of Take That and slot in the music of another long-lasting band and it would mean the same. It is a story in which the words ‘Take That’ and the names of the group are in fact never even mentioned and in which ‘The Band’ refers not to a group but to a wrist ornament bought at a gig. It is a story centred around girls in which it is conversely the boys who never leave the stage.

On the final note I ended up staring across a room at the faces of three members of a pop group confronting the truth that hits any songwriter; your song is not yours. The moment you release it into the world, it is co-owned by you and the listeners whose life stories it absorbs.

TIM FIRTH


The Reviews

The Stage

Four of the five original members of 1990s boy band Take That are billed as co-producers of The Band, a new jukebox musical that celebrates their hits and the slavish devotion of their female fan club.

So, unlike 2007's eminently forgettable musical Never Forget, it can be deemed as having the band’s official seal of approval.

The show is cleverly framed in the style of Mamma Mia!. It tells the story of long-time friends meeting up for a reunion concert of Take That. Twenty five years after they were 16-year-old school friends who won a competition to see the group in Manchester, one of them has now won tickets to see them in Prague.

Tim Firth, who recently collaborated with Take That's Gary Barlow on the score for West End musical The Girls, has created an instantly relatable frame on which to hang the band’s pop hits, one that embraces friendship and life's vicissitudes as it visits each of these women, now married and mothers, having long ago left behind their dreams.

Jukebox shows like this often explode into pop megamixes at the end. But from the beginning, Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder’s production has the audience joining in, waving their hands – or their lit mobile phones – along with the songs. The musical numbers are executed with the youthful joie de vivre accompaniment of Five to Five, the five winners of Let It Shine, the BBC's reality TV casting show.

But The Band puts the dramatic spotlight not on the boys, but on the female characters. As embodied by the splendid quartet of Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna, they are fierce, funny and wonderful. There are times when this feels like a pop music version of Follies, as the friends look back on who they once were. It's not as profound as the Sondheim musical, but the show smartly maps the songs of their youth on to the people they are now.


Jon Bausor's sets, which conjures up rock arenas and pop art versions of airports and aeroplanes (one song is set on the wing of a plane) are witty and affectionate.

They help create an effective portrait of an era that, on the evidence of the audience reaction in Manchester, will have wide appeal.

Verdict
Smart, funny and affectionate jukebox show based around the songs of Take That

Mark Shenton

The Guardian Four Stars

Jukebox musicals can make or lose a lot of money: for every Abba with a Mamma Mia! there’s a Spice Girls with Viva Forever! But if Gary Barlow is hoping his own exclamation mark-eschewing entry into that market will become Take That’s most elaborate tax write-off yet, he may be in for a disappointment: while not exactly David Bowie’s Lazarus (for a start there are some decent jokes), The Band is a warmly articulated, exciting and funny celebration of what it is to be a music fan.

The Band is not the story of Take That. Surprisingly, given the high profile BBC talent show responsible for casting this musical’s five male singers and dancers, nor is it even the tale of the Take That-esque boyband who weave in and out of this show’s story and, at times, literally burst out of the scenery. Instead, set between two arena concerts 25 years apart, it’s the story of five teenage girls, how four of them grow older, and how pop music defines our lives whether we like it or not. It’s fitting that The Band should begin its run in Take That’s home town, with all five TT mums in tonight’s audience, but when the show’s teenage girls unexpectedly face tragedy after the end of an arena show by their favourite act, it’s hard to escape the poignancy of this musical’s Manchester setting.

The story’s lead characters won’t astonish anyone who’s encountered Shirley Valentine or Muriel’s Wedding, and in less sensitive hands this could have been a messy attempt at mansplaining fandom. But Tim Firth’s writing radiates warmth, and beyond grandly staged set-pieces there’s also a strong, likable attention to detail: early on we see a box of breakfast cereal styled on Take That’s real Kellogg’s Corn Pops promotion from the early 1990s, and later the boyband subtly recreate the sleeve of Progress, a more recent Take That album.

Shows like this are notorious for crowbarring in hits on the most tenuous plot points. The Band’s premise – that pop is all around us, and sometimes makes sense in unexpected ways – allows Tim Firth to leave his crowbar at home and have some fun. During an intense post-gig bonding session high above the lights of Manchester, the teenage friends decide only one thing can make the moment more perfect. “Let’s sing a song from the gig,” suggests one. “Have the boys got a song that’s right for moments like this?” ponders another. The third is rather blunt: “No.”

When plot and pop do align, it’s remarkable. Back for Good is performed as a duet between 90s kids and their fully grown 2017 selves, with teenagers apologising for whatever they said and did, and adults telling their younger selves that they want them back. Top of the Pops is referenced several times, while mention of Smash Hits prompts a small cheer from the audience, but pleasingly The Band swerves the temptation to wallow in all-out nostalgia, ending with several smart callbacks and the tying together of apparently peripheral plot points, and the sense that actually the next 25 years might be all right too. And more than being a love letter to a particular pop era, The Band really feels like a thank you letter to fans.

“We were girls of 16,” one character reminisces in act two. “We were fantastic. And we still are.”

Press night climaxes with the unexpected arrival of the actual Take That, who bang through Relight My Fire with Lulu, but the pivotal moment has come 10 minutes earlier, when an MC breaks the fourth wall and encourages tonight’s audience to get involved. Don’t worry about stealing the show, we’re told: “It was your show all along”.

Peter Robinson

...and in response to this Guardian review a contributor mailed this to their website:

" What was so lovely about the review was the critic got it. It's for a group of ladies who love laugh and cry. But hey. So do men. It's a fabulous piece of emotional entertainment written by Tim Firth…"

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