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Theatre Review: Greatest Days ****

Yvonne Paterson reviews a musical 'full of humour, honesty and heart'.

Get ready for it- ‘cause the official Take That musical Greatest Days has come to the Edinburgh Playhouse this week….and it does not disappoint!!

Packed full of Take That’s greatest hits, the production is nothing short of nostalgic with songs such as “Could It Be Magic” and “A Million Love Songs” from the 90’s along with some of their 2000 hits, such as “Shine” and “Greatest Day”.

Although Take That’s music is the staple in this production, the music itself plays more of a supportive role in the story, which works exceptionally well considering that what’s really at the heart of this musical is friendship, love, loss, grief, falling apart, regret and reforming (come to think of it – it sounds a bit like a well-known band perhaps?!). This musical will take audiences on a rollercoaster of emotions: it’s full of humour, honesty and heart.

Writer and co-director Tim Firth does not skirt around pulling at the heart strings—this production packs an emotional punch that isn’t really expected.

The story flows over two timelines and follows Rachel and her group of friends, who are bonded over their love of a boyband. We first meet them as teenagers: full of energy, hopes and dreams, jesting over what boyband member they are going to marry or what their futures are going to look like. When they meet 25 years later, things are very different.

The group of friends have been cleverly constructed through both smart writing and Lucy Osborne’s clever costume design, which uses colour to clearly show who is who. The young cast are full of energy and set up a good foundation for the older cast to play against, particularly as the friendship falls apart due to a past tragedy. As wonderful as the company are, Mari McGinlay (as Young Claire) stands out with a magnetic playfulness that is shared by Jamie-Rose Monk (as the older version of Claire). 

The boyband (made up of Jamie Corner, Archie Durrant, Alexander O’Reilly, Regan Gascoigne and Kalifa Burton) are brilliant at executing Aaron Renfree’s choreography: the on-the-floor thrusts and hand synchronised moves oozes the boyband era, and the moments throughout the production where the band give “mini” gig performances are brilliant (and aided by Rob Casey’s lighting design, giving it that 90’s nostalgic feel).

The boyband are very much in the background but always there: they trigger the thought that, although you might not know the artists personally that you listen to, when life gets tough, they are there for you. Like the friends, we all have a go-to track that sparks a memory of a person or time that means something in our lives—this production resonates such a feeling.

Greatest Days is a wonderful production – it acknowledges that fans have stories too and that, sometimes in life, a band is more to fans than just something on their playlist.

Greatest Days is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until September 2, 2023 before continuing its UK tour.

Tags: music theatre

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