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Review: The Band, the new Take That musical, starring Five to Five at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

Go on, admit it... There's something universally appealing about Take That and their music.

They're the pop icons that make us all proud to be British.

And just when we thought they'd done it all, they've completely wiped the floor with everyone in the music business, and made their very own musical called The Band, written by Tim Firth.

Five to Five in The Band. All photos: Matt Crockett
Five to Five in The Band. All photos: Matt Crockett

A tv competition last year called Let it Shine helped them find their new leading pop stars. Five to Five were the winning end result, made up of Hythe's own AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon.

In April last year, I was invited to Manchester for the press launch of the show, produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, to have a sneak peak and chat to the cast and crew. The one thing that's stuck in my mind from that day was Gary Barlow's emphasis on the importance of the plot.

I'm sure many TT fans have been crying out for a musical for years, but they were absolutely right to hold off until now. What makes this musical such a success compared to other pop song shows - or 'dukebox musicals’ - is the story. It's unpredictable, hilarious but moving, and somehow manages to be incredibly modern and nostalgic all at the same time.

The girls go crazy at The Band's concert
The girls go crazy at The Band's concert

Without giving too much away, it follows a group of school friends bound together by their love of 'The Band', an incident that changes them all, and a reunion 25 years later with unexpected results.

The show features songs performed by Take That
The show features songs performed by Take That

Five to Five as a whole are incredibly slick. Their characters are always present, singing Take That's tracks to fit each situation. They are full of life and talent and give it their all. It's actually hard to believe they've only been together for a short time.

Rachelle Diedericks leads Five to Five as Debbie in Relight My Fire
Rachelle Diedericks leads Five to Five as Debbie in Relight My Fire

But what really carries the show is the perfect casting of both the young and old group of girl friends. Faye Christall and Rachel Lumberg offer genuine pathos to the role of leading lady Rachel in their respective teen and adult incarnations. But despite the fact Rachel narrates the show, I left the theatre feeling somewhat cheated of more depth to her back story compared to the other characters. She 'builds a wall' of music from The Band around her, which at times doesn’t allow the audience in to the softer side of her personality.

The story follows a group of school friends and their love of music
The story follows a group of school friends and their love of music

The rest of the group - Heather, Claire, Zoe and Debbie - all gel well for a witty and moving performance throughout, but Katy Clayton and Emily Joyce in the roles of young and old Heather both provided truly legendary performances. Her drama queen persona had me in fits throughout, and she definitely ‘wins biggest news’ for her adult transformation.

The full cast of The Band
The full cast of The Band

The set design is strong and every scene surprised me, with features like a ‘real’ fountain, an aeroplane, concert stages and even a bus. My theatrical highlights were during the songs Shine, Never Forget and Relight my Fire.

AJ Bentley (front) hails from Hythe in Kent
AJ Bentley (front) hails from Hythe in Kent

Take That and the rest of the creative team deserve every bit of praise they have already received for this show. The Marlowe Theatre’s run is close to a sell out, but if you’ve been lucky enough to get your hands on some tickets, I’d go as far as saying it could be the ‘Greatest Day’...

The show is at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury until Saturday, March 3, but there are very few tickets left. To book call 01227 787787, and marlowetheatre.com.

As a result of the demand, a second Kent date has been added to the tour schedule - it will be at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford from Tuesday, February 5 to Friday, February 9, 2019. To book visit orchardtheatre.co.uk or call 01322 220000.

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