Hi guys!! Over the last few weeks, the newly refurbished Hull New Theatre has been hosting the Band Musical which has been touring around Britain since last September. To give you some context, back in the January of 2017, BBC One presented a one off, prime time Saturday night show called ‘Let it Shine’. It’s main goal was to discover 5 young men to construct a boy band to star in a new musical linked to and created by British boy band Take That. About half way through the competition, the remaining contestants were split off into 5 different bands so they could bond and compete together as a group for the rest of the competition and each group also recieved a band name. 5 to 5 (consisting of AJ Bentley, Curtis T.Johns, Nick Carsberg, Sario Solomon and Yazdan Qafouri) took the show by storm and marched ahead to victory and to the starring roles in the Band musical. The musical itself centres around 5 teens who are obsessed with ‘the band’ – it’s everything to them. On the night the girls finally see the band in concert, they are struck by a whirlwind of tragedy and sadness, forcing them all onto separate paths. Now, 25 years later, they all reunite for the band’s reunion tour with certain regrets, wiser minds and determination to mend their friendship. Take That’s music is featured throughout the show and there are lots of parallels made to the band and their fans. My mum is a massive Take That fan just as much as I’m a massive fan of the 5 to 5 boys so we knew we had to go and see the Band Musical and I’m so glad we did. Today’s post is going to be a review of ‘the band musical’ where I’m going to describe my experience of it and grant you with some of the wisdom it taught me.
To start off with, the performance transported us back to the 90s into the bedroom of a 16 year old teenager called Rachel who was watching top of the pops like many people back then used to. Her obsession with ‘the band’ was introduced and she described them as kind of growing up with her – but not vice versa. 5 to 5 also made their first appearance and executed an excellent dance routine whilst also singing one of Take That’s songs and preparing Rachel for school. Downstairs, Rachel can hear her parents arguing and the issue of their future divorce is presented. At school, Rachel meets up with her 4 best friends, Debbie, Zoe, Heather and Claire and they all excitedly discuss Top of the Pops from the previous night as well as ‘the band’ apart from Claire who missed it since she had diving practice. Debbie quizzes Rachel on which member of the band she’d most like to marry and Rachel exclaims that its slightly premature to be selecting a husband while still in her teens but that she’d choose all 5 of them. Debbie chuckles and reminds Rachel of her promise from when they were 6 that Debbie could be her bridesmaid which they wrote on a balloon and released into the sky. Consequently, when the subject of the band is mentioned, Debbie goes on to state that she won tickets for all of them to go and watch them in concert and that she is glad she didn’t listen to Rachel who constantly told her “Girls like us don’t win competitions”. The girls all explode with excitement and decide to skip school after lunch to dress up and get ready for the concert. Being the most responsible and book smart one of the group, Zoe worries about how any of their parents will agree to them travelling off to the gig that night and Heather tells her that her parents should think she’s doing ‘revision’ at one of the other girl’s houses so she can really sneak off to the gig. Debbie asks Rachel if she’ll be allowed out to the gig and Rachel remarks that her parents probably couldn’t care less where she was. All of the girls apart from Debbie and Rachel bid all their friends goodbye and rushed off to prepare for the concert. Debbie asked Rachel how things were at home and Rachel vented out her frustrations about her parents constantly arguing. To try and cheer Rachel up, Debbie reveals that she may have found a way for them to actually meet the band in real life and Rachel freaks out at this prospect. To preserve her promise, Debbie makes it into a balloon promise like she did with the bridesmaid promise and exclaims that it has to happen now they’ve done that.
The scene is changed to a concert set up with a massive, raised stage where the band are performing with the five girls watching them from below and screaming ecstatically. Once it’s over, the band were escorted off into fancy cars before the girls even have time to discover where they are. Debbie apologises feverishly to Rachel who accepts her apology but Debbie is still filled with guilt and vows that one day Rachel will get to meet her heroes. Before leaving the concert area, Debbie gifts each of her friends with souvenir bands which she bought after she was given one for free so they can comemorate their first concert. During the time after the concert, the girls were delayed in waiting for the band to appear, they missed their train back home and unfortunately not one of them had a single bit of money to pay for the bus instead. In a desperate attempt to worm their way onto a bus for free, Heather lied that they were studying transport and wanted to inspect the bus for their studies. The bus driver wasn’t convinced and called out their lie right away, grumbling that kids always missed their trains when at concerts so incidents like that always happened. However, he begrudgingly allowed them all onto the bus for free. Abuzz with energy from their first concert, Debbie directed all the other girls into breaking out into song and dance on the bus. As a result, they angered the bus driver and got kicked off the bus. With no other options, they were forced to hike back home which gave Zoe a chance to show off her orienteering skills.
Upon reaching a massive rock near the motorway leading to their home town, Debbie forced them all to stop and take in the moment – the excitement of experiencing their first pop concert. All 5 of them surveyed the graffiti on the rock and giggled about the fact most of it was about Heather. Heather was asked if she’d have children and after she answered with “There’s a high probability”, this lead the girls onto the topic of the future. After it was mentioned earlier that Claire had diving practice, it came as no surprise that her wish for the future was to become an Olympic medal winning diver. Debbie wanted to be a dancer featured on top of the pops and Zoe wanted to go off to University to earn a degree. It was Heather’s dream to be a fashion designer and while Rachel didn’t exactly know what career she wanted, she could picture herself curled up in bed with her future husband, cheering for Debbie while she danced away on top of the pops. Debbie brought up the promise again that she’d be Rachel’s bridesmaid and with happiness, Rachel agreed. The girls discussed how strange it would be if they met again later on in life after they’d all accomplished these things but Debbie insisted that they’d never lose touch and to maintain the promise, they swore it on their new matching bands and headed off their separate ways. But soon after, tragedy struck and threatened to tear apart their world as they knew it. Whilst walking home, a bus rolled out in front of Debbie and took her life.
After the news broke to the audience about Debbie, the four remaining girls entered the stage in matching black attire, clearly for their best friend’s funeral. Each girl held a balloon which Rachel explained was part of a special ceremony just for the four of them to remember Debbie by. Sadly though, it didn’t take long for an argument to arise. Zoe and Heather both resentfully blamed each other for Debbie’s death due to Heather causing them to get kicked off the bus and Zoe leading them a certain way home and in fury, they both destroyed their balloons and stormed off. Claire tried to place hers down gently but accidentally popped hers and she wandered off to console her two outraged friends. That left only Rachel with a huge, empty Debbie sized hole in her life as she mourned her friend and exited the stage. Soon after the funeral, Rachel’s parents finally got divorced and her mum moved with her daughter as far away from her ex husband as humanely possible.
Skipping ahead 25 years, Rachel hadn’t seen any of her former school friends since the disastrous incident at Debbie’s funeral and her life had seemingly moved on. She was cohabiting in a house with her partner Jeff whom despite the fact he’d asked her several times, she’d still not married after 20 years. Jeff was about to head out for a meeting when he overheard Rachel’s name being announced on the radio. Upon raising the volume on the radio, they discovered that Rachel had won 4 tickets to attend the band’s concert in Prague on their reunion tour. Jeff was overjoyed at the prospect of travelling to Prague and began deciding who to invite along to Prague with them. Rachel however was shocked that she’d even won the contest as she still thought “Girls like her didn’t win contests” and instantly wished she could invite her school friends along to the gig with her. She decided to make her wish hopefully come true and emailed all of her old friends to propose that they came with her. However, Rachel was startled back to reality when Jeff remarked that they didn’t even have to go to the gig and Rachel couldn’t quite comprehend that something that meant so much to her meant so little to him. Gently, she explained to him that she was planning to invite some of her old friends along to Prague instead of him and he was puzzled since she’d never mentioned them before and he’d just assumed she’d want to go with him. Slightly hurt, he exited for his meeting and Rachel slumped down in a chair, concluding that it was a stupid idea to ever reach out to get old friends together again and that they could enjoy the concert without her.
The next part of the performance was set in the airport. Slightly older versions of Claire, Heather and Zoe all appeared on stage and they all greeted each other with suprise and happiness. Rachel was missing though having seemingly decided to skip the concert and the girls wondered slightly where she was as they caught up on lost time and what had been going on in all of their lives since they’d last met up such as Zoe becoming a teen mum and popping out 4 kids and Claire giving up diving. Suddenly, they’re ushered by the piloting staff towards the boarding area of the plane as it’s crucial they send the plane off soon so it isn’t late. The 3 women protest and question the staff about Rachel’s location since they are adamant they won’t board the plane without her. The staff are persistent though and insist that she’s probably already on the plane so to check if she is, Heather rings out an announcement, requesting that if she’s on the plane, she’ll make her presence known to them. Just as she finishes the announcement, a quiet voice calls out “I’m here” and the three friends turned sharply to behold the final member of their group standing, suitcase in hand. Once they arrived in Prague, it didn’t take long for them to start acting in a childish manner and reliving what it was like to be 16 and they accidentally defaced a statute on a fountain which causes them them be detained by the police.
Whilst in the police station, tensions are running high since it’s looking highly likely they won’t make it to the concert if they aren’t released quickly. Claire explodes with anger while the rest of them are giggling about the fountain and claims that they can’t act in an irresponsible way since they’re not 16 anymore. The girls reflect on her words and a more vulnerable chat emerges. Claire reveals why she gave up diving all those years ago – it wasn’t nearly as rewarding without her friends there to cheer her on. Then Zoe admits that now she’s sent all of her children off to University, she has no idea what she’s going to do since they’ve been the centre of her life since she’s been a teen. Maybe it’s finally time for her to earn her degree after 25 years. Next, Heather slips up and accidentally exposes the fact she does have children, meaning she lied about it earlier on. It soon becomes clear though that the child is of a different ethnic origin and is adopted and Heather affirms that she is gay. Rachel goes on to explain about Jeff, her partner and the girls encourage her to nudge him into proposing to her after they’ve been together for 20 years. After this, the police officer announces that the paper work is done so they can be discharged. All 4 of the girls break out into a sprint, knowing full well they are missing the band’s reunion tour concert.
Unfortunately, they spent too long being detained and the girls missed the entire concert. Before they all separate again though and don’t meet again for another 25 years, Rachel begs for them all to keep in touch. Underneath everything, they are all still the same over excited, unsure of themselves 16 year olds except they have matured to become resonsible adults. All 4 of them have been so frightened to acknowledge Debbie’s death for 25 years but now Rachel encourages them to remember her instead of trying to forget so they can become stronger in their friendship. As they dance through the airport doors, singing at the tops of their voices, Rachel catches sight of Jeff, patiently waiting for her while perched on a seat and the four friends freeze. Rachel bid all the girls goodbye and cautiously flopped down next to him, slightly befuddled why he’d driven out in the early hours of the morning just to greet her. It seemed like he was experiencing similar emotions of confoundment after Rachel had denied his requests to get married and was meeting up with old friends she’d never mentioned before. The only reason he could think of for her looking back was because she didn’t want to be with him any longer but Rachel immediately negated that idea. It turned out the real reason she didn’t desire a marriage like he did was because her special bridesmaid Debbie wouldn’t be there on her big day. But after spending time with her old friends, she’d finally begun to accept that Debbie was never coming back so she was finally ready to be married. Plus, now she’d have 3 bridesmaids!!
The final scene took place after the wedding of Rachel and Jeff and to apologise for the release of balloons not happening at the funeral, Zoe, Heather and Claire had arranged for the bride to be dropped off at the rocks outside town so it could finally take place. Rachel was deeply touched by the actions of her friends and the release of the promise balloons was the perfect end to the story. For the finale, all the cast members joined together onstage for the singing and dancing number of ‘Never forget’ and the audience were urged to stand up and dance. The whole cast took their bows to a well-deserved, thunderous round of applause and I walked away from the theatre with an experience I’d never forget.
Throughout the show, 5 to 5 appeared and perfectly executed Take That songs while also performing amazing dance routines. I was so impressed with all of their immense talent and I really hope this isn’t the last we see of the boys. All of the rest of the cast also blew me away with their performance and I thought the story line which was written by Tim Firth was beautiful and inspiring. I noticed that the title of the musical had a double – edged meaning, linking to the band as in the boy group but also the bands that the girls bought from the concert. From my Mum’s perspective as a Take That fan, she could really relate to the idea of starting out as a fan of the band in the 90’s and staying loyal to them right through to the 21st century since that’s what she did with Take That. I can honestly say that the musical reminded me of how valuable and beloved my family and friends are to me and how precious human life really is. It made me feel a wide range of emotions including excitement and sadness and some of the jokes were so funny they had me in stitches. I’m just so glad I experienced this musical and am so grateful to Take That for first creating the idea of it.
Thank you for reading this post!! What’s your favourite musical? Let me know in the comments!! There’ll be another post out soon but until then bye for now!!
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull