Talking Theatre: Alison Fitzjohn Discusses Take That! Musical - The Band
Tim Firth’s hit musical, The Band comes to Wales Millennium Centre in January 2018 and is a beautiful story for anyone who grew up with a boyband and how those songs became the soundtrack to their lives.
The musical tells the story of five 16-year-old girls in 1992, To them, the band is everything. Twenty-five years on, the friends are reunited as they try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting their heroes.
“I play adult Clare,” Welsh actress, Alison Fitzjohn tells Andy Howells, “The first half of the show is when she is 16 years old and the second half is when I come in and it’s when we’re adults. Basically, my characters all about dreams and dreams that were lost, acceptance of who you are now and what might have changed in life.
“There’s a tragedy that happens in the first half of the show which is why all the characters go their separate ways and they kind of all meet (again) in the second half. They’ve all been on a journey for one reason or another, but my character is very affected by a tragedy that happened when they were 16 and her life turned out very differently to what she thought it was going to be.
Alison’s theatrical credits included recently completed a run as assistant director and performer in David Walliams' tour of Gangsta Grann, playing The Queen of Hearts/Duchess in the Olivier-nominated immersive production of Alice’s Adventures Underground by Les Enfants Terribles and performing all over the world in Horrible Histories, Barmy Britain and Horrible Science.
Alison’s role in The Band required a specific type of character description as she explains, “They were wanting a large actress for the part and you kind of go up for the roles you are right for. When I saw the audition piece, I kind of went “Gosh! I just get this character!”
“I understood where she was coming from and I just think the writers and producers are brave to broach size in a show, basically representing all different body shapes. It’s kind of the story arc of Clare I find fantastic. It’s a pleasure to play, she’s such a rounded character, funny but also an upsetting side to her as well.
Alison believes the role of Clare has an important message to convey to the audience,
“It’s very interesting because my entrance in the show is a particularly shocking one. There’s a reaction from the audience because people go “Oh my gosh! How does it feel to be laughed at?” It’s odd because I don’t see her as been laughed at I see it as the audience been shocked because she has changed so much. Its very interesting to see the different perceptions people have of Clare as a character,
"Its not just the size, it’s the love of the band, the friendship she has with the other women, kind of the power of friendships and needing other people, if you’ve got other people, you can stand together and get through things.”
The Band includes the music of 90s boyband, Take That and features a clutch of the groups greatest hits including Never Forget, Back For Good, A Million Love Songs and Rule the World and features the winners from the BBC's Let it Shine, Five To Five. Was Alison a Take That fan herself back in the 1990s?
“Massively!“ laughs Alison, “I grew up in Penarth and was a Take That fan! I had a sticker book and Mark Owen was my favourite!!
The musical has had a major input from the stars of Take That! themselves, which Alison admits has been very special.
“They come in often, they had a real hands-on approach to the audition process and Howard, Mark and Gary have been so supportive and performed with us a few times on the encore.
“To perform with them is a real pinch yourself moment, it’s wonderful! I’ve said before, I would love to go back to my 16-year-old self at St Cyres, and say “You know what? in years to come, you’re going to be performing with Take That!” I would never have believed that, it’s very special!”
Although the musical features Take That’s music, Alison admits that you don’t need to be a hardcore fan to enjoy it.
"There’s an amazing story behind it, it will take you on a real roller-coaster of emotions. You’ll be laughing, crying, singing dancing and it will make you think. It’ll be a show you won’t expect it to be, so definitely come and enjoy it!”
THE BAND is at Wales Millennium Centre from Tuesday January 9 until Saturday, January 20 2018.