Review: The Band, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
As we entered Wales Millennium Centre's Donald Gordon Theatre for the opening night of the musical, The Band, the audience were transported back to 1992 via old Ceefax pages being displayed on a large TV screen. The screen worked as a scene setter proclaiming Take That at number one. As the display began to fade the screen began to play the Top of the Pops theme as the setting for The Band got underway.
Although The Band primarily features the music of Take That, it quickly becomes apparent that The Band could be any boy band that populated the music charts of the 1990s that teenage girls would either adore or obsess about.
The musical follows the story of 5 16-year-old friends who are huge fans of The Band. First off, we met Rachel reminiscing about her teenage days with her friends for whom ‘The Band’ is everything. The scene transitions to the 16-year-old Rachel’s bedroom to a fantasy-like sequence which sees The Band appear from her bedroom wardrobe and desks as she imagines them performing in the room with her while watching Top of The Pops.
Throughout the first act, we follow Rachel and her friends Debbie, Heather, Claire and Zoe played by Faye Christall, Rachelle Diedericks, Katy Clayton, Sarah Kate Howarth, Lauren Jacobs as they go to see The Band in concert.
The Band aka BBC Let It Shine winners 5 to 5 were made up for the opening night of AJ Bentley, Harry "Fabulous" Brown, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon. The group were rarely off the stage as they provided the Take That song track that helped tell the story of the show.
As the first act of the evening drew to a close, we see older Rachel, excellently played by Rachel Lumberg win a prize to see The Band in Prague. Rather than taking her close friends and boyfriend, she chooses to reunite with her old school friends (now older and played by Emily Joyce, Alison Fitzjohn and Jayne McKenna while Martin Miller plays Jeff) and the second act follows their roller-coaster of emotions as they reminisce about their school days.
A wonderful addition to the show is Andy Williams as Every Dave, who pops up every now and again in various roles with a cheeky line to keep the continuity flowing.
While the set was quite basic, projections and excellent lighting help bring the story to life and I loved the way they used the top deck to project the memories of the older characters using the younger actors.
As The Band drew to its encore climax, I was rather confused when the story called to do the encore once again. For me, this would become an unexpected highlight of the evening as the cast were joined on stage firstly by Mark Owen, followed by Howard Donald and Gary Barlow to complete the current line up of Take That. While this doesn’t happen at every show you never know when they will likely turn up next on the tour!
Nostalgic for those who loved the 1990s music scene, while at the the same time uplifting and emotional, The Band will warm your heart on a cold winters night. It continues at Wales Millennium Centre until January 20, 2018