The GNI team had the pleasure of attending the Grand Opera House – Belfast on Tuesday 13th of November to watch “The Band” a musical written by Olivier Award-winning writer Tim Firth and stars the winning band from the BBC One television show “Let it Shine”.
“It’s heartbreaking, it’s heart soaring and it’s absolutely fabulous”
The Band (Five to five) is a beautiful story for anyone who grew up with a boy band and how those songs became the soundtrack to their lives. The story is about five 16-year-old girls in 1993; the band is everything (We all grew up loving a band and listening to every word they sang). The show opens with 16-year-old Rachel (Faye Christall) who explains her love for “The Band”, as her older self (Rachel Lumberg) looks on. It’s as if the band themselves soundtrack her life as they come to life in her bedroom.
The group of 16 year old girls end up going their separate ways with no contact and then reunite 25 years later as they try once again to fulfil their dreams of meeting their childhood heroes. Featuring the music of Take That, Britain’s most successful boy band of all time, whose songs include Never Forget, Back For Good, A Million Love Songs, Greatest Day, The Flood, Relight My Fire, Shine & Rule the World and starring the winners from the BBC’s Let it Shine, Five to Five.
I was surprised that the musical does not follow the story of Take That – even though they sang all their biggest hits and the high profile BBC talent show, Let It Shine that went on a hunt to star the five male singers, Five to Five. The story in fact jumps back and forth in time, following the lives of five 16-year-old teenagers in the 90s and the adult version of themselves 25 years on whose lives are shaped by their devotion to their favourite boy band. From friendship to heartbreak, personal struggles and discovering who we really are, Firth really has got the balance right between humour and poignancy. The story truly relates to one situation or another we have all found ourselves in.
The boy band (Five to Five) makes the story come to life, telling the girls' story with some witty lines keeping us all amused, while the cast who play the young and older versions of the girls capture the essence of teen and middle age beautifully. There truly are some heart-wrenching moments, particularly from the girls in their more senior years – mostly from the amazing Alison Fitzjohn - who overcomes personal obstacles and a shared tragedy to meet up once again. One thing you can never forget with Take That is that their songs truly stand the test of time for anyone who grew up in the 90s.
With plenty of laughable jokes mixed with some heart-rending and tear-jerking moments, it really does take you on a rollercoaster of emotions from the opening scene to the very last. Five to Five, who weave in and out of the show and appear on stage in unexpected moments, have been put in the background with no major acting role. But they have enough moments to 'Shine through singing', not least when they take on A Million Love Songs as the girls look back on how one tragic event changed their lives forever.
Even though I was never a huge fan of Take That, the boys even got me on my feet singing along and having the craic, which really does say it all.
The casting, particularly Jayne McKenna as Zoe, Rachel Lumberg as Rachel, Emily Joyce as Heather and Alison Fitzjohn as Claire - is sublime. However, it was Andy Williams who played the bus driver, the Czech policeman, the cleaner and the caretaker, who really had me laughing in every scene.
The stage set pieces with likeable attention to detail and the special effects were brilliant and really brought the room to life along with he boys costumes and fabulous quick changes with the leather outfits by far being the most eye catching and appealing.
I quote Gary Barlow, “it was absolutely fantastic” I would recommend everyone to see it.
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