Not being a massive fan of boy bands, I wasn’t sure of seeing a show about Take That. However, this show produces is a feel good, nostalgic trip through Take That’s songbook. What it lacks in depth, it makes up for in enthusiastic and heartfelt renditions of classic songs. Initially set in 1993 when Take That’s power was at it’s most potent, the show really captures the era and how much Take That! really meant to people at the time.
The story is a simple one. Teenage friends Rachel, Claire, Heather, Zoe and Debbie are bound together by their love of the same boy band. The boys permeate their every move. They win a competition to actually see the band in Manchester. They vow that they will always be friends and that they will meet in 25 years. Fast forward to 25 years later, and they have all lost touch and gone their separate ways. The 41-year-old Rachel has entered another competition to see the boy band in Prague. She invites her friends to go with her after not having seen them for 25 years.
Tim Firth’s storyline is a fairly typical tale of school friends who have failed to follow their dreams and ambitions. What makes this show stand out, is the way the boy band is interwoven into every aspect of Rachel’s life. They are in her bedroom, in lockers at school, they become confidants in later life, airport cleaners, flight attendants and even statues in a Prague fountain. The Take That songs become meaningful, painful and joyous when punctuating what’s happening in the friend’s lives.
The set design by Jon Bausor is very clever and versatile. It has to depict a myriad of scenes and does so with comic and practical ease. Everyone helps to move and manipulate the set including the boy band who have an enormous amount to do during the show. The clever projection by Luke Halls also aids the depiction of many places. Ceefax from 1993 is on-screen as you enter the auditorium. This fully evokes the era and took me straight back to the 90s. Patrick Woodruff’s lighting manages to be rock and roll as well as sensitive and atmospheric when required. All the creative elements produce a stunning looking show.
Faye Christall as young Rachel with the boy band Five to Five
The boy band Five to Five were found and cast during a TV talent show, Let it Shine. They certainly shine as the boy band. Their singing is sublime, dancing energetic and all their characterisations clever, funny and moving. The show could be accused of being overly sentimental and schmaltzy, but it manages to stay on the right side of insipid with the quality of the performances and songs. The whole casts gives fully committed and emotional performances which gives it a feel good factor that is infectious.
This jukebox musical is full of fun, classic songs and great performances. Even the slightly older audience in the matinée I saw were dancing in the aisles. This is a sure-fire hit that cannot fail to liven up cold January evenings.
Runs until 20th January 2018
Reviewer supported by Wales Critics Fund