Review: The Band – Take That musical at Manchester Opera House

You know that feeling when a song captures a moment so vividly it is like the lyrics were written just for you?

It is that surge of emotion, that perfect storm of belonging, that channelling of generational angst that makes the music of Take That so emotive, so recognisable and so utterly loved – and it is this they have tried to capture in new musical The Band.

This is a truly 21st century affair.

Take That saw a way to bring their astonishing back catalogue of tunes to a new audience via a TV talent show‘Let it shine’ to recruit Five to Five – the talented band in the story.

It could so easily have been like all those other musicals sewing together the music classics of a favourite band or singer.

But it’s not simply about five boys that made it big but a recognition that their anthemic classics and cheesy, upbeat, pop form a soundtrack to the lives of many.

The production, written by Tim Firth, is a personal ode to the fans who loved a band as children and now as adults and a recognition of what it now means to the grown up Take That boys themselves.

Tuesday night saw this new production which has been making waves in Manchester presented to an Opera House audience heavy with press, celebrities, industry bigwigs and family members. It was always going to be emotional and the night didn’t disappoint.

With Gary, Mark and Howard on the red carpet ahead of the performance and all five Take That mums watching down in a row from a box, the pressure on the talented young cast was high and not just because Graham Norton was in the audience.

What made this staging remarkable (and without giving away the story) is its relative simplicity – the music shapes the emotional journey of five girls as they become women.

But it is the songs and humour that chart the highs and lows.

It is true to life, the members of the band are not front and centre but there when the woman need them to shape and vocalise their journey and emotions.

The Five to Five boys – AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Oafouri and Sario Solomon – lit up the stage, their voices blending beautifully with their pitch perfect renditions of all the favourites while the women bring humour, searing honesty, and feel-good warmth to a performance that sees a well-deserved standing ovation.

Emotions were already high when the producers took the opportunity to announce their ‘interval decision’ to extend the run of The Band across the country, to the gasps of the cast.

So when Take That took to the stage joy was overflowing in the room, even before Lulu made a special appearance to sing the chorus in ‘Relight my fire.’

A remarkable night and I suspect the beginnings of a new musical theatre chapter.