Interview: Leading ladies in Take That’s musical The Band

Date Posted: 07/08/2018

LtoR Jayne McKenna, Emily Joyce, Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn credit Matt Crockett

Vicky Edwards meets the mostly female cast of smash-hit show The Band, co-produced by Take That – to talk about growing up obsessed with a boyband. 

It is the strangest feeling. I have met the ladies of The Band only once before and yet it feels like we are old friends. 

Onstage they exude infectious joy and warmth. Chatting in the dressing room, I realise that the chemistry transcends the footlights too.

“I can absolutely see why writer Tim Firth cast it this way,” says Jayne McKenna, who plays Zoe. She says they are now so in tune with each other that any onstage problems are communicated via body language and sheer intuition – the result of living, travelling and working together for a year.

Co-star Rachel Lumberg chips in: “Sixty per cent of our cast and crew are female, so it is a massive thing to be part of, especially at the ages we are.”

They have every right to be proud, with packed houses and standing ovations every night. People regroup through a trip to the show because they loved a band as youngsters. Others come through a shared fandom for Take That.

LtoR Rachelle Diedericks, Faye Christall, Katy Clayton, Sarah Kate Howarth & Lauren Jacobs in The Band, credit Matt Crockett

“I don’t think we were expecting that,” confesses Rachel. “Nor were we expecting so many women to identify with us. That was a real eye opener.”

“Seeing the audience up on their feet and waving their arms in the air at the end of every performance is just incredible,” says Emily Joyce (Heather). “It is unusual to get that response to a show.” 

Like Mamma Mia! before it, The Band’s soundtrack uses a supergroup’s songs but has a totally original story. The plot centres on a group of 16-year-old friends for whom in 1992, ‘the band’ is everything.  And 25 years on, the now 40-somethings reunite as they try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting their heroes. 

Having watched, spellbound, it is every bit as riveting as watching Gary & Co strut their stuff. But will The Band be a supremely hard act to follow in terms of whatever roles the ladies play next – a case not so much of Take That, but of ‘Top This?’

“To be in something so incredible that has originated around us, I do wonder if that will ever happen again in my career,” Jayne says

Rachel’s abiding memory will be of the opening night in Manchester. 

“The boys [Take That] had made a decision not to be there so that it was our night, which was really sweet, but we were petrified. We had such a huge responsibility on our shoulders. But then the reaction was amazing and it is the same every night. It is an absolute privilege.” 

The cast of The Band.

The Take That boys – Gary, Mark, Howard and Robbie – have been very supportive. 

“We message them and they pop in, and they mentor the boys especially.  “But one of the things I think we can be immensely proud of is that it no longer belongs to Take That,” says Rachel. “It belongs to us, and that is HUGE. That’s what they wanted.” 

Group tickets

There are discounted tickets for groups booking Monday to Thursday performances at the Theatre Royal Haymarket where the show runs from 1st December to 12th January. For tickets, contact the box office on 0207-9308800. 

It’s also touring from 18th September (starting at Southend), until 16th March (Southampton), visiting a number of venues including Wimbledon Theatre, the New Theatre in Oxford and the New Victoria in Woking. 

Group organisers should contact their chosen venue for rates. 

Lead image: LtoR Jayne McKenna, Emily Joyce, Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn (photo credit: Matt Crockett).

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