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Greatest Days- musical review

Including all the biggest hits of Take That in their hay day, Greatest Days (formerly known as The Band) tells the heartwarming story of a boyband-adoring friendship group, seeking solace through the joy and darkness of adolescence, then reuniting 25 years on to reconnect with their passion and love for both the music, and one another.

Written by Tim Firth, with co-direction from Stacey Haynes, it coincides with the newly released movie of the same name. Although the show's own title change is now more identifiable and still holds that double meaning, in relation to the content of the production itself, the old one was possibly a more touching joint reference, being as the symbolic gig wristbands used have bittersweet significance to the plot. Keeping a vastly similar script, audiences are introduced to the teenagers, living life in the 90s, never forgetting an episode of Top of the Pops, and obsessing over the latest songs (and corresponding dance moves).

Young Rachel - played by Olivia Hallett - is best friends with Debbie (Mary Moore), and the best bits about school for them are decorating their lockers with boyband posters, and listening to tape recordings to learn the lyrics whenever they can. In addition, Heather (Bayley Hart, understudy) is branded the flirt, seemingly getting with every boy in close radius, a wannabe fashion designer flunking lessons or copying answers from the nerd of the group, Zoe (Hannah Brown), who likes books more than boys, striving for University, and completing her Duke of Edinburgh award. Lastly, Claire has her sights set on the Olympics as a professional diver, and training is priority for her, besides when the band is playing.

Winning a competition to see them perform live, the girls make their way to an electrifying gig: it was one of the greatest days of their lives. Despite not getting to meet them after the show, they were determined to keep singing and dancing, but missed their travel. Stranded, they must pray they can get back, but sometimes even the most special moments can end in the striking of indignant disaster...

25 years on, the friends reunite for another trip to make up for lost time. Rachel (Jennifer Ellison) Heather (Rachel Marwood), Claire (Jamie-Rose Monk) and Zoe (Holly Ashton) meet and discover the changes life can bring having drifted apart all those years ago. Jeff, Rachel's husband, is played by Keith Henderson (understudy), who can't understand the necessity for her to see the girls again, but being unable to work out the part of her that is missing, she must go to find this piece. In their own ways, the band still holds such importance, often being a distraction and dose of escapism from the difficulties the group were facing both in the past, and acting as something to draw them together again to heal from this later on.

The casting for this particular show is crucial, as the age shift between characters must appear accurate, especially as there are scenes where they appear as a collective, in their individual block colour costumes for extra identifying purposes. Perhaps not as similar as the original touring cast of 2017, (and possibly lacking some diversity too), they are still excellently selected, and each take on their parts with both joy and convincing emotion. Although there are a few potentially controversial jokes to turn heads, taken with lighthearted spirit, it is a humourous reflection upon the way things don't always end up how we anticipate them. Alan Stocks takes on the role of Dave, a relatively unknown character that partakes in a variety of different cameos; from bus driver and band manager, to cleaner and passport control, he brings a laugh to each.

Failing to be very transportive, the set is rather disappointing in its layout, presenting as mainly grey steps moved around. If rightfully remembered, someone appears out of a locker in the previous production, and even little elements like this feel stripped back to basics here. The light up stairs are enjoyable though, and furthermore, it works alongside the performative aspects of the production, when the boys impressively present their beautifully blended vocals, and get into formation, with nostalgic and energising choreography by Aaron Renfree: Alexanda O'Reilly, Regan Gascoigne, Archie Durrant, Kalifa Burton and Benjamin Cameron (understudy) make up the band. Featuring 'The Flood', 'Shine', 'Rule The World' and 'Relight My Fire', as well as the titular track 'Greatest Days', they remarkably fit the piece quite fluidly, written into the storyline. Ultimately being an uplifting show with a heavy hue of tenderness, it is a rollercoaster to feel emotionally invested before suddenly being encouraged to belt 'Never Forget' with the dance moves!

Watch the performers shine, and it'll likely take you back (for good) to those Take That tracks that consistently smashed the charts and won the hearts of listeners, leaving you humming along all the way home.


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