Music and Lyrics: Take That
Writer: Tim Firth
Directors: Tim Firth and Stacey Haynes
When can a show that’s billed as “The Official Take That Musical” not actually be about Take That? When it’s Greatest Days – and although a previous incarnation of the show was titled The Band it’s not even really about the (unnamed) band. What it’s about is people – people who are music fans, their excitements, their hopes and their fears.
Rachel, Zoe, Heather, Claire and Debbie are sixteen, and they are very excited because they have won tickets to see the band live. We learn about their dreams, their assumptions about themselves and each other, whether it’s to become a fashion designer, an Olympic diver, to be a bridesmaid – and they promise that whatever happens, they will keep in touch.
Wind the clock forward over 20 years and the band is doing an anniversary tour – and Rachel has won VIP tickets to see them in Athens. As so often happens, the girls have lost touch over the years but she manages to make contact. What will happen when they get back together? Have they fulfilled their teenage dreams, and how will reliving an experience from the past affect them?
The script by Tim Firth is at times funny and moving, with the music a mixture of the band performing or being used as background to reinforce the mood – neither of which do anything to carry the story forward. What we’re left with is more a play with music rather than a traditional musical – and regarded on that basis it’s a piece that is engaging and amusing but feels under-dramatised.
There’s a strong cast led by Rachel Marwood on for Kym Marsh as Rachel, with Holly Ashton (Zoe), Charlotte Anne Steen (on as Heather at this performance), and Jamie-Rose Monk (Claire) all contributing well with some well-judged performances and good comic timing, particularly from Monk. There’s good work too from the teenage group, with Evangeline Jarvis Jones (on as young Rachel), Hannah Brown (young Zoe), Kitty Harris (young Heather), Mari McGinlay (young Claire) and Bayley Hart (on as Debbie) giving us believable excitable teenagers each with their own aspirations and challenges to overcome. Most of the music is carried by the boyband but the whole cast demonstrates good vocal ability when called upon.
The five-strong boyband comes across as totally authentic, with Lucy Osborne’s costumes and Aaron Renfree’s slick and appropriate choreography complementing the excellent vocals, with the lighting design by Rob Casey adding the finishing touches during the sequences when we see the band in performance mode. It all looks, sounds and feels right as they deliver the well-known numbers well. The band is also used to move the set around, and here things aren’t quite as slick. Osborne’s set is well-conceived artistically, with staircases and boxes being used to create different locations but the practicality doesn’t quite match the concept. The cast struggle with moving some of the pieces and getting them into the right place and scenery is sometimes being moved immediately behind cast members delivering dialogue. It’s awkward and very intrusive and feels under-rehearsed which is surprising at this point in a national tour.
The show features some 18 Take That songs from Relight My Fire to Shine, and that alone will be an attraction for many potential audience members, though if you’re expecting to see a show about Take That, this isn’t it. It’s a pleasant and entertaining experience but not a production that’s likely to set the world alight in its current form.
Runs until 22 July 2023 and on tour