Cardiff family lifestyle, arts and culture blog.


Hopes, Dreams and All That's in Between: The Band at Wales Millennium Centre.

*We received tickets in exchange for review.

Last night I visited my younger self as the cast of The Band took to the stage at Wales Millennium Centre. I was thrown back into a life I can still recall at the sound of a particular song; voices and faces of my former school friends skipping through my mind and this warmth in my heart as I think about how much I love them still.

The Band follows the story of five teenage girls set against a backdrop of Take That music, music that flows through their daily lives and, when they're older, takes them back to a time they'll never truly forget. 25 years on and they've drifted apart, lived lives they never really expected to, but when they meet again they realise their bond has never truly broken.

Having (purposely) not read too much into the show, I really didn't know what to expect when the lights went down last night. I only wish I had prepared myself for the heartache and tears. The story follows five young girls on the verge of their adult lives, and there is no doubt about it that Tim Firth has written this story from experience.

I cannot tell you how amazing the writing is for this production. From the dialogue to the clever handling of song and dialogue intertwined, The Band is faultless. As I watched, part of me wanted the story to be in book form, so I could dip into it any time I like, forever immortalising the beautiful characters presented on stage.

The girls are presented by an outstanding set of young talented females, with Faye Christall as Rachel, the central character of the story. She's joined by Katy Clayton as Heather, Sarah Kate Howarth as Claire, Lauren Jacobs as Zoe, and my absolute favourite performer of the night, Rachelle Diedricks as Debbie. They all performed with such passion, and there was a true sense of genuine friendship between them. Rachelle Diedricks was outstanding as Debbie, her stage presence and voice were faultless and I, quite simply, adored her.

As they performed and interacted (as only teenagers do!) I was thrown back in time to my own teenage years. A time when I met my lifelong school friends, those friends who danced and sang along to cheesy 90's pop songs with me, those friends who shared their make-up, clothes and secrets with me, those friends who picked me up when I was down (and still do!). I sat in the theatre with tears streaming down my face and during the interval I messaged a couple of them, to tell them I loved them. Yes, this is what The Band does to you. You relate to the characters, to the life we see as mundane or lacking in some way, and then you realise how lucky you are. How lucky you are to have had those special moments with people who truly understand you, warts and all. How lucky you are to be able to still hold them tight...

The second half of the story involves the adult versions of these beautiful women. Rachel Lumberg is cast as adult Rachel, and boy does she follow on from the wonderful Faye Christall with a sweet and sentimental version of the teen. Alison Fitzjohn takes on the role of Claire, Emily Joyce performs as Heather and Jayne McKenna as Zoe. All women transition from teen to adult seamlessly in terms of character, yet their hopes and dreams of 25 years ago haven't necessarily materialised, not in a literal way anyway. This transition was outstanding, and it once again reminded me of my own life and the lives of my friends.

When it comes to Take That and the music of their (and mine, and probably your...) youth, Five to Five are outstanding. They constantly appeared in weird, wonderful and inventive ways upon the stage. From statues to lockers, the clever set and stage design added an extra layer to this show, and Take Five handled it all with professional ease. Five to Five is made up of AJ Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Sario Solomon, Nick Carsberg (we saw Harry Brown in his place last night) and Yazdan Qafouri, and they do not disappoint. Warren is still telling me how much he adored their harmonies! They were completely seamless alongside the rest of the cast, moving and performing in harmony with the story, it was so beautiful to see!

I can't fail to mention the amazing male characters within the show, Jeff (Martin Miller) and Every Dave (Andy Williams) who offered light relief and quick-witted moments during the performance. I adored their dialogue and quirky performances, and I have to say I absolutely adored the balloon scene, it totally broke my heart. Martin Miller was amazing as sweet, kind and geeky Jeff, and his relationship with Rachel was very realistic and incredibly adorable. Andy Williams offered a lot more in the way of humour in his role as Every Dave, from a bus driver to a police officer, he offered comic relief in between the more emotional scenes. 

I literally have nothing negative to say about this performance, it truly has it all and I'm not sure I saw a dry eye in the theatre. You will connect with the characters, relate to their stories and have the chance to sing along to some of Take That's most awesome hits. I adore the fact that the story isn't about Take That, but the lives of real people in the real world with a connection to the music that featured in the soundtrack of their lives. The stage, set and costumes are unbelieveable and the cast work perfectly between scenes to move the story along.

The Band is a story of hopes, dreams and all that's in between. It's a stark reminder of how short life is, but also a reminder that we already have the most important thing: each other... and we've had it all along.

Disclosure: I received tickets in exchange for review. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.


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