On tour ahead of its film adaptation this summer, Greatest Days doesn’t quite deliver on its titular promise.
Billed as ‘The Official Take That Musical’, Greatest Days is a rebrand of The Band which premiered in Manchester in 2017. It’s not to be confused with Never Forget, another Take That jukebox musical, which is about the forming of a Take That tribute band. Greatest Days follows a group of school friends who reunite after 25 years apart. And go to Athens. And sing Take That songs.
The Palace Theatre is a huge theatre with a massive stage, and unfortunately, Lucy Osbourne’s set doesn’t quite fill it. It is made up of movable set pieces which are changed around by ‘The Band’ – the unnamed group of men only referred to as ‘The Boys’ – and watching them slot these giant staircases into place quickly becomes tedious. The refusal to call the band Take That is increasingly jarring – I assume it’s so the generation before can be reminded of their reactions to The Beatles, and the generation after can see themselves at One Direction concerts. The result is a bland wash of generic boyband references – not as Take That-centric as you’d expect from the ‘official’ musical.
The show establishes time jumps between the 90s and the present day, using Kym Marsh as our main(ish) character Rachel and Marsh’s real-life daughter, Emilie Cunliffe, as Young Rachel. Cunliffe has a tender moment when recounting an off-stage tragedy, and Marsh carries the weight of 25 years of sadness over it well. Other standout performances come from Kitty Harris as Young Heather, Mari McGinlay as Young Claire, and Mary Moore as Debbie. The cast is so large it becomes difficult to keep track of who is who, despite the colour-coordinated outfits.
During the second Act, Tim Firth’s script is littered with jokes at the expense of queer women, young mothers, and weight gain. Yes, you might make jokes at the expense of a friend of 25+ years, but the fat jokes were especially distasteful. Worse still was a Duke of York reference with a double meaning that my mum (who I took as my +1) particularly didn’t appreciate.
Of course, sitting down to watch a Take That jukebox musical: my expectations were low. I was fully prepared for some cheesy dancing and songs which are shoe-horned in. I was, however, expecting polished performances and a high-quality set, which I’m sorry to say I didn’t receive. Alas, the performances were not pitch-perfect throughout, and the dancing could be much tighter – although hopefully, this improves over the run. But, unfortunately, Greatest Days doesn’t make for a great day.
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