Theatre review - The Band at The Lowry, Salford
PUBLISHED: 14:09 17 January 2019
Just wind up the momentum of this show and watch it go.
It’s less than 18 months since it premiered in Manchester and is back already, still fizzing with enough wit, energy and imagination to fully satisfy its audience.
Much more than a jukebox musical, or a tribute act dedicated to the songs of Take That, with which it’s neatly infused, it’s a carefully-crafted drama with songs, more in the style of Mamma Mia!
Indeed it also shares a lot with writer Tim Firth’s The Girls, that with the help of old friend Gary Barlow - from Take That - they worked up into a musical version of Calendar Girls. A winning formula without being too formulaic. The strength of women in adversity; stoic friendship; and dealing with loss, give the show a dramatic force that sends its well clear of other shows simply wrapped around nostalgic songbooks.
The Band is more about the bond between a handful of schoolgirls obsessed with a 1990s boy band, than the actual line-up they lust after. If anyone misses the point it’s the girls’ pop star wristbands that unite them.
The objects of their affection haunt their everyday lives, which gives Jon Bausor’s amazing stage design more openings than an advent calendar. This is a rock concert construction of stunning digital backdrops and myriad other effects, with an airliner take-off that takes the first act, and the breath, away . . .
Of course it did the show’s pre-publicity no harm at all that its five pop performers were ‘discovered’ via a TV talent hunt, but in all fairness they become little more than cyphers to the story. It’s the girls, two ensembles of strong performers, representing their ages 25 years apart, that deservedly get the spotlight.
They add their own voices to all those soaring anthems that remind us of the times when Gary Barlow was not quite so ubiquitous – or Robbie Williams was not such a noisy neighbour . . .
If this show doesn’t become a film musical then someone is missing a trick. In the meantime the least they should do is trademark the name of that on-stage airline, Budjet!