NOT content with being the biggest UK band of recent years, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Howard Donald and a certain Robbie Williams are now extremely proud theatre producers.
Joined by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, the boys from Take That are at the helm of a new musical called The Band that will be in Woking next week.
“The key to its success is familiarity,” says Howard. “It strikes a chord with people’s lives by being a reflection for anyone who has ever been a fan or a supporter, or anyone who has had a group of friends and known love, friendship and loss.
“The only let down is that the music is crap,” he jokes, referring to the Take That hits that provide The Band’s soundtrack.
To be clear, the show is not about Take That. Instead The Band tells the story of a group of 16 year-old girls for whom in 1992, ‘the band’, a non-specified five-strong group, is everything. Twenty-five years on, the 40-something women reunite in an attempt to fulfill their dream of meeting their heroes.
Take That’s main songwriter Gary has his own idea why their show seems to chime with audiences. “I think that friendship really resonates with people,” he says, adding: “Friendship is at the heart of Take That. It has kept our work strong, we’ve been a gang.
“The Band is about the relationships really, not the music. You don’t need to be an avid fan, but Tim [Firth, who wrote the show] has so cleverly woven our music into a parallel universe. Whenever I see it I leave happy.”
Mark agrees, adding: “It brought me back to when I was a teenager knocking about with my mates and the dreams that I had then. It made me contact old friends after I saw it.
“People slip from us as we get busy with life, but the show made me reminisce. It was like a pause button.”
As well as producing, the Take That boys were mentors to the young performers who collectively play the title role, AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon.
Howard says: “I never envisaged being a pop star let alone a producer – I was on a YTS training scheme to be a vehicle painter and panel beater when I joined Take That, but luckily we had the right people behind us.
“The lads of The Band are really down to earth, which is how we formed our friendship, how we grew up as a group and how we can now regroup.”
Mark agrees, adding: “I’ve enjoyed the mentoring more than anything. You feel like a father to his son and we had sit-down talks about looking after each other and about going out into the world. It’s been a real pleasure. Their energy is really positive and so they inspire us. It really does work both ways.”
In the show, the older women look back at their younger selves and Gary doesn’t stop to think when asked what advice he’d give his 16-year-old self.
“I’d say grab it and enjoy this moment right now,” he says. “It sounds so corny but this young cast are at such an amazing time in their lives, but they may have some tough years ahead. It’s so important to enjoy the here and now.”
The Band will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Tuesday 19 February until Saturday 23 February.