THEIR last appearance prompted whoops, cheers, gasps and tears from a sold out Mayflower audience.

Now the cast of The Band, the smash hit musical based on the back catalogue of Take That, can't wait to return to Southampton for their final week of the tour which became the fastest selling theatre show of all time.

Of course, the Southern premiere involved a finale appearance from a certain band.

It was the surprise to end all surprises as Take That burst on to stage to bring the curtain down on the spectacular new musical featuring their hits.

South Coast Thatters are desperately hoping for a repeat performance from the trio, two of whom have homes in Hampshire.

And, while actress Rachel Lumberg promises she's never told about any appearances from Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald until the night before or even the day of the show, she too is hoping the boys will be back for one last curtain call.

Describing the atmosphere in the Mayflower auditorium back on Halloween 2017, Rachel gasps.

"What a rollercoaster," she laughs. "The audience absolutely loved it and they certainly weren't expecting it! It was a phenomenal experience.

"Those are three lads who absolutely adore this show," she adds. "It's their lives up there as well and even they never imagined it would have the impact it has had on people. They just wanted this to do well and to say thank you to their fans and their support has been incredible, particularly during the rehearsal process when they were very hands on."

Rachel is the envy of Take That fans worldwide as she plays the protagonist in their story.

For five teenage girls, the band means everything. In the musical, we meet them 25 years on, learning their story of love and loss to the soundtrack of boyband belters like Never Forget, Back For Good, Rule The World and The Flood.

It's no coincidence the lead is called Rachel. Lumberg has previously worked with writer Tim Firth and producers David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers on Calendar Girls and The Full Monty and the part was written with her in mind.

"It's unbelievably flattering and a huge responsibility," she says. I didn't want to let them down and I wanted it to be right for all those people that are Rachel."

Having seen the show several times, I can confirm she is completely brilliant.

The Southampton stop will be a week of mixed emotions for Rachel, who has enjoyed a successful career starring in numerous theatre and television productions, everything from A Touch of Frost to Romeo and Juliet.

"29 years I've been in the business and I've never been involved in anything like this. I'm not sure I ever will again.

"People have been to see this show 30, 40, 50 times which was what we wanted, but never imagined actually happening. It's got its own following, which it very much warrants, but that's a beautiful thing.

"I think it will only be when I have the chance to look back on it that I will properly appreciate it, but I know this will be one of the happiest memories of my professional career.

"It's timeless, beautiful and it's been an absolute privilege.

"I'm going on to something else, but there will always be a bit of this Rachel in me and I hope the show will be reincarnated and I won't put her away forever. I love Rachel dearly, I will miss her dreadfully and I'd welcome her with open arms again."

This may be the end of its utterly sensational debut tour, but I imagine The Band will be back.

The show runs from Tuesday to Saturday at Mayflower Theatre. Limited tickets are available for some shows.