First Night: Show with pecs appeal will go far

Boyband Gielgud Theatre London
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The Independent Online
WELL, IT'S not Pinter, but it was never going to be. Meaningful pauses have been replaced by vacuous brains, observations on human nature by toothpaste smiles, and meditations on power by synthetic arguments with band-managers. The only question you are left pondering as you leave the theatre is whether fluoride destroys the brain? Your ears are awash with simplistic harmonies, and meaningless apparitions are still dancing before your eyes. The plot is anorexic, and the stars are two-dimensional: so I predict, with the deepest depression, that this musical will go far.

Boyband picks up on that old favourite, the rags to riches and riches to cynicism theme. It has plucked five unknowns to play five boys who have made it as pop stars - modelling themselves on the myriads of boybands who started off as unknowns.

It may be pressing on the boundaries of reality to suggest that this production could be indulging in double ironies, but it is difficult to work out whether the musical's creators are trying to create a new boy band, or whether they are content with merely creating a narrative about a boyband laced with saccharine satire.

Did they want the audience to go home talking about the boys' pecs or their piercing observations? Members of the audience I talked to didn't know, and as far as I'm aware, once they'd finished screaming, they didn't care.

Peter Quilter apparently created this musical because he thought that since so many people were interested in reading about wrangles behind the scenes of bands like Take That they would be equally enthusiastic about seeing such disputes on stage. He collaborated with producers and musicians who have impressive credentials in this field. Keith Beauvais has written for Take That and Tom Jones, Paul Taylor has worked with Texas and M People, and Darius Zickus has worked with Brian Eno.

The one interesting angle of this show - though you know Pinter would make far better work of this - is the interesting power games that come into play once you entirely sign your life over to another person, supposedly for your own good. Bryan Murray, as the boys' manager, is appropriately cynical, and gets the best lines of all the cast - like "When was the last time you heard of a boy-band that could actually sing?"

The rest of the performers have slightly different characters, but none that you'd really notice. At the end of the day you're best off staring at their pecs.

Rachel Halliburton