Let It Shine winners prepare for Manchester’s The Band musical

PUBLISHED: 10:18 04 September 2017

Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon
Credit: Matt Crockett

Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon Credit: Matt Crockett

Archant

As The Band, the new musical from Tim Firth and Take That, prepares to open to excited audiences in Manchester, we caught up with new stars Five to Five and director Jack Ryder to learn more about this groundbreaking event.

Jack Ryder, centre, in his role as director during rehearsals for The Full MontyJack Ryder, centre, in his role as director during rehearsals for The Full Monty

Trying to corral five positively bouncing young men into answering yet more questions from a pesky journalist is no easy challenge, but that’s no surprise, as winning a national TV talent show (BBC One’s Let It Shine) to star in a brand new musical, which is being produced by a team that includes members of one of the most successful boy bands of all time, doesn’t happen every day and they are busy, busy, busy!

There are mere weeks before the show opens, rehearsals are in full flow, and I am curious to know how it’s going for to these young men, only one of whom, Sario Solomon, has any real stage experience.

Nick Carsberg admits that his greatest surprise has been: ‘how bloody hard it is!’ and Curtis T Johns adds that: ‘The sheer involvement it takes getting a show up and running, from the runners, to the crew and everyone off stage to our lovely Company Manager who guides us each day so we know what the hell we are doing!’ has been his greatest learning curve, but it seems that for all of them the show itself is proving to be far more than they could have anticipated.

Solomon says: ‘All I knew from the beginning was that it was a musical with Take That songs and from that people would generally think it’s a jukebox musical, but this is far from the truth. I have found out through the course of rehearsals it an emotional, humorous and sentimental musical. It’s a play with Take That hits and anyone of any age will love it.’

Sario, Nick, Curtis (seated), AJ & YazdanSario, Nick, Curtis (seated), AJ & Yazdan

Jack Ryder, who many will know from his first days on screen playing Jamie Mitchell in Eastenders and who has developed a hugely successful stage career as both an actor and director, says: ‘I think one of the big challenges is that it’s a NEW musical.

‘There aren’t many new musicals being created on this scale with such a huge brand connected to them. We literally started from scratch with very little time and with that comes many challenges. The Band has been a very different experience for everyone, but there’s something incredibly exciting about that. We’re attempting things with this production that have never been done before and that has been hugely challenging at times.’

Using Take That songs, the story (written by Tim Firth) charts the events of 1992 for five girlfriends for whom, at age 16, there is nothing in life more important than ‘the band’; 25 years later the same five friends set out to fulfil their dream of meeting their teen heroes.

‘I believe there’s a lot to look out for in this show,’ Ryder adds. ‘I don’t want to give the game away too soon but there’s so much more to all this than the songs alone. Of course, people love Take That’s music but we are also telling a new story which is based on a true event. Tim Firth is a genius storyteller and I think he’s created something really special.’

With opening night so soon, I ask what the boys are most looking forward to and it seems they’re simply itching to get out there and show us all what they can do.

‘I can’t wait to perform to an audience every night and really feed off the positive energy,’ Carsberg says, and Johns agrees: ‘Just getting in front of the audiences and that real fire adrenaline of doing the shows. Very exciting! And Manchester is where it all started for Take That so it’s really Manchester’s musical!’

Ryder has a somewhat less giddy response, but it’s no less telling: ‘I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with such great people over the years and am continually surprised to be surrounded by such talent. Creating these shows is such a collaborative process, you’re constantly learning something new and when it all comes together in those final stages and this living, breathing story is right there on the stage in front of you, that’s always a pleasant surprise to me. I’m always quite taken by that moment.’

The Band

Manchester Opera House

8 September 2017 – 30 September 0844 871 3018 | atgtickets.com/Manchester

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