The Band – A New Musical
Centre Stalls Seat around £53
If you like your theatre with a touch of hen party in Magaluf, this is absolutely the show for you. The Band, is a new musical by Tim Firth, featuring the music of Take That. It threads the boyband’s original songs through an intergenerational storyline from 1993 to present day.
Five school friends connected by their love of a band, take a trip one evening to watch them perform live. On their return from the concert, tragedy strikes and the friends gradually lose contact. The bereavement is a defining moment for them and of course a plot device that gives them a chance to reflect upon their own lives at a later point. It’s also the emotional aspect of the storyline providing the bitter sweet final moments of the show.
The musical should have been safe in the hands of Tim Firth, having demonstrated competence with similar Our House The Musical in 2002. However, it doesn’t manage to emulate the fun and warmth of Mama Mia (a sentence I never thought I’d write) the quirky banter of Our House or the class of Jersey Boys – three musicals you don’t have to be a super-fan to enjoy.
This is not a reflection on casting. Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna as the grown up friends pull as much emotional depth and fun as they can from a really unfunny script. As Debbie, Rachelle Diedericks managed to keep her character genuinely warm and charming without wandering down Schmaltz Road, a pretty impressive achievement. The Band itself provided a Greek Chorus in the backdrop of the girls’ to women’s lives.
In fairness to the show, everyone else at the Bristol Hippodrome found great hilarity throughout. But, I don’t think raucous laughing at a character who happened to be gay and adopted a black child should be providing the mirth-filled fun that it did. In fact, if they had wheeled the grown-up character of Heather out on stage in a wheelchair, it would have been a Christmas List of Political Correctness Gorn Mad for the Right-Wing Facebook Comments Brigade. Very clumsily written and I just cannot fathom why the race of a child would make near on 2000 people hoot like drunken owls.
There were some nice design moments during the show. John Bausor’s bus, plane and Ceefax pages and Luke Halls’ aeroplane take-off.
I wasn’t able to pinpoint who the target audience for the show was supposed to be. Probably the Take That Superfan, considering the number of arms in the air like they just do not care. But I remember a young Take That performing at a sticky carpeted Ritzy in Bristol in the early 90s. This means they definitely belonged to the Millennials, and as a spokesperson for Just About Generation Snowflake, I can confirm that the humour lacked sophistication, the characters were two-dimensional stereotypes, they displayed somewhat outdated attitudes regarding race and sexual identity and the more tender moments of the storyline had the delicacy of a sledgehammer through an Oxford Street jeweller’s shop in the 1980s.
The Band is on at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 28 April 2018.
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