I had the pleasure of being invited to review Tim Firth and Take That’s new musical ‘The Band’ at Belfast’s Grand Opera House last night. Honestly my review could be one simple sentence: Call your girlfriends, book tickets and go have a night to remember. But I’ll tell you a bit more about why this musical exceeded all expectations and left me with a warm heart.
As a girl born in the late 80s, the first song I ever remember listening to was ‘Everything Changes’ by Take That. One of my earliest memories is singing along to it in my bedroom while getting ready, so you can imagine the level of nostalgia when the opening scene featured a young girl getting ready to the music of my childhood. The first few scenes felt like the inside of every 90s teenage girl’s head. At one point I actually wondered whether the wonderful young actresses on the stage could comprehend just how much envy all of us oldies were filled with watching them acting out our teenage dreams. Because unless you were a child of that generation, before internet and phones; where to listen to music you had to record Top of the Pops onto a cassette, I don’t think the importance of these bands and concerts can be appreciated. Before Instagram and Twitter, going to a concert and breathing the same air as these popstars, who we idolised, was the closest we could ever get to them. This was all we had to talk about because we didn’t have endless content to consume on the internet. They were it. The opening scenes showed this perfectly and were a refreshing reminder of how things used to be.
This show wasn’t all about nostalgia and reminiscing though, or even about The Band. In fact, the band don’t speak. Instead they beautifully compliment a fantastic story of friendship, life and how it changes as we grow up and go our separate ways. The story had unexpected emotional turns, whilst being incredibly funny throughout.
Several things stood out for me. Firstly, and most obviously, the music and choreography. The songs were perfectly placed, and several were lesser known Take That songs, so it was easy to let go of the natural focus on The Band and focus instead on the main characters when the storyline came into its own. You don’t have to be a Take That fan to appreciate the music, though of course, it adds something really special when you are.
Secondly, the wonderful connection between the older and younger cast. There are several really touching moments where the younger and older versions of characters come together beautifully. It’s really special and fully believable that both versions are the same character. It doesn’t feel disjointed at all. It also really made you think about the passage of time, and how quickly our lives fly by.
Finally, the feel good feeling you leave this show with. It draws every single person in the room in, to the point where everyone in the Grand Opera House was on their feet and dancing. As I looked around me there were women hugging, cheering, and singing. Even the men attending were getting involved. It felt like I was at a concert, living a teenage dream and being reminded of the importance of friendship all at once. What more can you ask for?!
Like I said at the start of this review, this musical is the perfect excuse to grab your girlfriends, especially the ones you’ve been meaning to grab coffee with for the last 6 months, and go have some fun. You will definitely not regret it.