The Band

Irish Examiner - - People - Es­ther McCarthy

BGE The­atre, Dublin ★★★★✩

Take That are never name-checked in The Band, a spir­ited mu­si­cal that fea­tures much of the British pop­stars’ best-known back cat­a­logue.

It’s not about them. The Band’s great vic­tory is that it’s about the joy, emo­tional in­ten­sity and hor­monal-pop sound­track of youth, and the deep friend­ships that can fos­ter at this point in our lives.

Set around five fe­male friends in 1992 — a bond sealed by their col­lec­tive love of and ob­ses­sion with a cer­tain boy band — the show cap­tures all the fun and mis­chief of be­ing a 16-year-old girl.

Tim Firth’s (Cal­en­dar Girls) con­cise, per­sis­tently funny writ­ing suc­cess­fully rounds them into very dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, set­ting up the po­ten­tial for sur­prises when we meet them later in life. At the core of the group stands the deep friend­ship be­tween Rachel and Deb­bie, whose be­lief and sunny at­ti­tude has helped in­stil in her friend a sense of con­fi­dence and self­de­ter­mi­na­tion.

But life and cir­cum­stances push the group apart, and by the time Rachel wins a com­pe­ti­tion for tick­ets to see the band at their re­union tour 25 years later, they have all lost con­tact. Rachel de­cides to pick up the phone — Take That isn’t the only group that’s get­ting back to­gether.

Timed to a pitch-per­fect pop beat, The Band is a joy­ous sugar rush of a night out, and the au­di­ence, made up largely of mothers ex­plain­ing the Ceefax and Smash Hits ref­er­ences to their daugh­ters, is even en­cour­aged to get up and dance dur­ing a clever, ex­tended en­core se­quence.

But there’s a real poignancy amidst the broad gags, as the women re­veal the hopes and am­bi­tions of their 16-year-old selves, largely un­achieved in adult­hood. The band them­selves en­hance key scenes and pro­vide mu­si­cal back-up, aided an d abet­ted by a strong and im­pres­sive pro­duc­tion de­sign.

Take That are on board as co­pro­duc­ers and two live se­quences, where the the­atre au­di­ence be­comes the con­cert au­di­ence, are a high­light, while Andy Wil­liams as sup­port­ing char­ac­ter Ev­ery Dave steals ev­ery scene he’s in.

‘The Band’ fin­ishes its run at Bord Gais En­ergy The­atre, Dublin, to­day. Some tick­ets re­main for the mati­nee. It then moves to Grand Belfast Opera house from Tues­day to Satur­day

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