As I take my seat in the dress circle of the beautiful Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, what’s displayed on the stage is a mock-up of a TV screen; scrolling through Ceefax pages displaying notable news and highlights from 1993, including the official singles chart (with Take That’s Pray at the top spot). It immediately transported me back to that time – recording your favourite songs on cassette tape from the radio, setting the VCR to record Top Of The Pops on VHS video, and adorning your bedroom walls with posters torn from the pages of Smash Hits. For me, those posters always featured Take That, and I was utterly devoted to their music – buying all of their singles, watching (and re-watching) their music videos and feeling totally devastated when they eventually split up.
So I was more than a little excited to be invited along for the press opening of The Band musical at The Mayflower Theatre. The musical doesn’t tell the story of Take That, but instead of a group of girls for whom their love of a boy band forms a constant accompaniment to their youth. (And this boy band – The Band – just happen to handily be able to deliver the entire back catalogue of Take That songs, with the dance moves to match). The Band is co-produced by Take That themselves (minus Jason) as well as Calendar Girls writer Tim Firth, and has been touring since September 2017 – its stint in Southampton represents its final leg, with the last night of the tour on Saturday.
The plot of the musical centres around the girls whom we meet in the opening scenes – sharing with them their experiences as they go to their first gig (and miss the bus home), fall out of touch, and then reunite 25 years later. I won’t spoil the storyline – and honestly, it’s not integral to the enjoyment of the show, but merely the stitching together of the spaces in between the five boys (who won their places in the BBC Let It Shine competition) belting out the Take That hits. The boys themselves have none of the dialogue however, this being dedicated to the girls – who do also get to share the singing (which I wasn’t expecting – but it works).
I couldn’t help but have a silly grin plastered across my face for the entirety of the show, and it’s simply impossible not to clap and sing along (I know that because I could feel the Circle bouncing as everyone danced in their seats for the finale!) The whole show was a musical trip down memory lane – I found myself trying to guess which songs were coming up next, and they really did tick off all of the hits (with some very impressive costume changes to boot!). There weren’t many dry eyes in the house for the final song, and as the crowds waved their phone torches and sang along, one of the cast encouraged even more dancing in the aisles – “Don’t worry about stealing the show – it was your show all along.” Peppered with 90’s references, commentary on female friendship, and bursting with nostalgia throughout, I think that pretty much sums it up.
Press tickets were gifted by The Mayflower, Southampton. Check out their other upcoming shows.