Mark Owen talks to The Resident about Take That’s new West End show, The Band, the Wonderland tour and how one of the UK’s biggest boy bands is celebrating its 25th anniversary
Interview: Vicky Dearden
Words: Madeleine Howell
Take That recently reunited with former band member Robbie Williams at the One Love Manchester concert, an uplifting moment that paid tribute to the strength of the city in the wake of the Manchester Arena attack, and one that saw the iconic 90s boy band come together on their home turf to show that they are very much alive and kicking.
As well as performing at the short-notice benefit gig organised by Ariana Grande, Take That – now a trio comprising Gary Barlow, 46, Howard Donald, 49, and 45-year-old Mark Owen – has had quite the year. As they set off to take their acclaimed Wonderland tour from the UK to Australia, the boys are also preparing to present their new musical, The Band.
The musical was announced at a surprise launch at the 02 Apollo Manchester back in April. The UK tour will kick off at Manchester Opera House in September, and ends at the Edinburgh Playhouse in July 2018.
‘It’s really about you guys,’ he announced to fans at the launch. ‘That’s what we wanted The Band to be about – about the people who have supported us for the past 25 years. We want to give you something back.’ The cast itself will include the members of Five to Five, the group who won Gary Barlow’s BBC One talent show Let It Shine.
‘It’s our memories,’ says Owen, when we catch up with him. ‘We met those kids when they were 16-years-old, when they were outside our houses and screaming at our gigs. We’ve seen them grow up. We’ve always had a great relationship with our audience. That’s one of the reasons we were so keen on doing this, and on finding the right storyline.’
We’ve always had a great relationship with our audience. That’s one of the reasons we were so keen on doing The Band, and on finding the right storyline
For Owen, who has survived a rocky patch or two in the course of his personal life, being a member of a band and making music is a comfort – and that’s something that the musical also depicts.
In March 2010, he admitted to having multiple affairs and an alcohol problem, and in 2011, he sold his home on Elsynge Road near St John’s Hill in Battersea for a larger house in Wandsworth.
‘All these people are going through their lives, that are changing left, right and centre,’ he reflects, ‘but music is the central core, through the band.’
But moving on to the brighter future, how are the new cast members – young stars AJ Bentley, Sario Solomon, Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg and Yazdan Qafouri – finding the transition from Let It Shine on to rehearsals, and to the stage show itself?
‘We’ve become very proud of them,’ Owen says. ‘They’re like our little brothers. They look so professional and so solid together. Such a unit. We were so lucky, because we had no idea what we’d find, and the band that came of out the show are absolutely incredible.’
For Gary Barlow, whose musical The Girls is also running in the West End, the musical will be a ‘rollercoaster of emotions. It’s a celebration, we’re very happy to say, of our music’.
When quizzed on how Take That intends to celebrate its 25th birthday, Owen expresses gratitude for the years the band has given him, but doesn’t reveal whether or not there will be a special show: ‘It’s a big year for us. There’s so much going on.
The musical will be a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s a celebration, we’re very happy to say, of our music, says Barlow
‘We’ve got the musical coming out in August, which we’re very excited about. It’s a very, very busy year. In an ideal world we’d love do it but we don’t know. Every day at the moment is sort of an anniversary. We’re on our eighth record now and you wake up every morning thinking, “I’m still alive. I’m still doing music”.’
Meanwhile, their epic new track Giants has cemented itself as the crowd-pleasing anthem of the year. ‘I think it sounds quite different,’ admits Owen. ‘I think that’s what’s exciting for us. It sounds like us as a band, but I’m not hearing a lot of stuff sounding like that on the radio, which I think is quite a nice thing. I like it, because it’s got its own identity. We’d been sat on it for quite a while, so it’s really nice for people to get the chance to hear it.’
Take That is well known for its flamboyant, show-stopping live production, and the Wonderland tour has been no exception. ‘The big thing about this show is that we did it in the round, in the middle. We like a spectacle. We like being theatrical. It’s something that we learnt from when we were very young. Our shows went big on production back in the 90s, and we’ve carried that on. It’s a new challenge for us being in the round, but it feels right.
‘It can sometimes be a bit of a pressure, but we’ve put ourselves in that position. We try to devise a show that feels right for the songs that we’re doing and feels right at the time. The show takes precedent before the effects do. We’ve got to get the texture of the show correct first before we start going, “Oh, let’s throw a flamingo in there!”’
Book tickets for The Band at atgtickets.com