People call it the “Take That” musical; but in fact, Tim Firth’s clever and likeable tribute show, at the Playhouse this week, is not about the story of the legendary 1990s boy band, its five original members, or the three who still play as Take That today. Instead, the story it tells – through a huge playlist of Take That hits, old and new – is of the experience of being a fan; of four women who loved Take That as teenagers, and who find one another again 25 years later, after suffering a shared loss that drives them apart.
The Band, Playhouse, Edinburgh ***
It’s tremendously cliched stuff, of course; the very mild “bad behaviour” of the women, the trip abroad that changes things in true John Goober style, the weary male authority figure (played with great good humour by Andy Williams) who recurs in their lives.
To say that this show is perfectly targeted at its chosen audience, though – women around 40 who were 15-year-old fans in the early 90s – is to understate its huge appeal for a crowd who simply adore every moment, singing along with every word, and bringing out their phone torches to create a forest of light for the big final anthems. And with the four lead performers on stage – Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna – delivering brilliantly audience-friendly performances, backed by a band of five boys who simply seem woven into their minds as they appear at key moments to offer comfort, encouragement and music, The Band emerges as a hugely effective exercise in musical and cultural memory, limited in ambition, but just about perfect in achieving its own aims.