The Band, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until March 16
The first time the Take That musical The Band played Southampton, 16 months ago, we had Take That themselves on stage at the end for a thrilling finale.
Sadly, lightning didn’t strike twice tonight – but the compensation was that it’s the musical itself which is the abiding memory, and what a musical it is, full of heart and soul, a poignant, fun-filled look at life, the way it treats us, the way our paths diverge and the way they might just converge again.
The piece opens in the present only to quickly flash-back 25 years to 1993 – a time when for five 16-year-old girls, an unnamed boy band was everything. There is something extremely touching in the portrait of devotion we get, the quest to see the band live, the hopes, the expectations, all leading to the glorious night-time moment when the girls pledge theirs will be a life-long friendship.
But that’s when awful tragedy strikes.
The five become four in a moment and quickly drift apart in their grief.
Roll forward 25 years, and one of the four seizes the chance to bring the friends together again for a new adventure and perhaps reconciliation.
On stage almost throughout are the band, the songs of Take That interweaving beautifully with the action, commenting on it, extending it, keeping it flowing, with the girls and/or the adults joining in.
The result is a cracker of a show, a real ensemble piece, everyone working wonderfully well together to capture hopes for the future, memories of the past and a growing effort to sort out the present, troubled for each and every one of them.
Above all the show is fun and very funny, but, without ever gushing over into sentimentality, it also comes with something genuine to say about growing up, growing apart and getting back together again.
Music includes Never Forget, Back for Good, A Million Love Songs, Greatest Day,The Flood, Relight My Fire, Shine and Rule the World – a pretty impressive soundtrack.