Boyband at the Gielgud Theatre
Plot - what plot? Acting - how's that done then? The team behind Boyband certainly don't know and, as a play, the result is pretty dreadful. As a theatrical ‘experience , however (ie, in the loosest possible sense, an evening spent in a venue called a theatre) - well that's something else again.
Peter Quilter was so fascinated by media attention surrounding the acrimonious split up of real-life boy band Take That that he scripted this ‘behind the scenes story of a group of youngsters thrust into pop stardom. Care of a ruthless manager (Bryan Murray) and a slick marketing machine, the fivesome, called Freedom (Damien Flood, Daniel Crossley, Tom Ashton, Kevin Andrew and Stepps), follow the well-worn route from open auditions to sixth-form parties and teen magazine covers to the ultimate in pop success - Wembley.
Though it's a great premise for a story, the book is far too flimsy, the characters too sketchy, the dialogue too scant to make it work. And it's played way too straight. As a satire, the recent Channel 4 spoof documentary, Boyz Unlimited was more effective - and much funnier. The foundation for the majority of the TV serial's jokes was the characters almost total lack of talent. The main problem with Boyband is that these boys are simply too good. No, they can't act, but they sure do look the part and, my my, can they sing and dance.
They re backed up by an impressive creative team - drawn, significantly, from the music rather than the theatre industry - which includes Steve Levine (producer of Culture Club, 911 and The Honeyz), Nicky Graham (writer for Bros, N Tyce and Peter Andre) and Emma Victoria (choreographer for 911). From them and the boys, we get some great concert performances and an album's worth of original songs. I dare you to try to expunge tunes like “Have Fun, Go Mad” and “Set Me Free” from your head.
But what really succeeds in making Boyband hugely entertaining has got nothing to do with what's happening on stage - it's the audience, composed largely of pre-pubescents who scream and swoon on cue. Initially, I thought these girls must have been hired for the job, so enthusiastic were their whoops, but their stampeding of the stage (and the genuinely frightened looks of the performers) convinced me otherwise. For the most hilarious scenes of the evening, follow them round to the stage door afterwards. Boyband may not be destined for stage greatness, but I have a feeling we ll be seeing Freedom again. Boyzone watch out.