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Greatest Days - Theatre Royal Nottingham Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson
Disclaimer: ticket was gifted in return for an honest review


If you conjure up the official Take That musical in your mind I don't think you would picture what you get from Greatest Days, sure it's a little cheesy but it's also touching and quite moving. For fans of the group, you will have an amazing time but even if you are not then there's plenty of enjoyment to be had.

The cast of Greatest Days. Photo by Alastair Muir

The musical is, of course, full of Take That music but features a band that appears throughout under the title 'The Boys' which means you could fit the experience of the group to any boy band. Though the piece is set up North where Take That are famously from. But this is not a story of 'The Boys' or Take That but a set of fans who are bonded through school and the love of the music. Tim Firth's script cleverly weaves together a lovely story.

The show begins with Jennifer Ellison's Rachel reflecting before we're sent back 25 years to meet Young Rachel who alongside for friends Zoe, Heather, Claire and Debbie meet up at school having the night before seen 'The Boys' on Top of Pops on TV. Debbie surprises the group having won tickets to see the Band live at the Manchester Apollo and head off for an unforgettable evening but later that night tragedy strikes that sees the group of friends go their separate ways. Now back in the modern day Rachel has won tickets to see 'The Boys' in Athens and sets out to reunite the friends for the trip.

Olivia Hallett as Young Rachel is magnificent, wide-eyed excitable whilst bringing warmth and drawing us in as an audience. Hallett creates the key central friendships brilliantly and you feel every word she is saying. Making her debut as Debbie on the performance I attended was understudy Evangeline Jarvis Jones who was a delight to watch. Jones' bright smile and sublime vocals show real talent. Kitty Harris' model looks and desire to be a fashion designer as Young Heather, Zoe Brown's academic Young Zoe and Mari McGinlay's aspiring Olympic diver are all played excellently. One of the key moments in the show is when the girls exchange bands that solidify their friendship and bind them together, this is played superbly by all making for the emotional payoff in the second act.

It's only towards the end of the first act that we're introduced to the characters as adults. Ellison's Rachel impresses throughout, especially as she reflects on the friendships that once were. The relationship with boyfriend Jeff, understudied by Keith Henderson, plays well as they bicker but their love is apparent. 

Jennifer Ellison (Rachel) and Olivia Hallett (Young Rachel). Photo by Alastair Muir

The adult versions equally impress. Zoe Ashton's Zoe, Karen Holmes understudying as Heather and an often hilarious Jamie-Rose Monk as Claire. The adventure to Athens is both a huge dose of fun and nostalgia for the ladies but they also play the lost friendship and division that comes with this well. 

Kalifa Burton, Jamie Corner, Archie Durrant, Regan Gascoigne and Alexander O'Reilly all do a great job as 'The Boys'. Aaron Renfree's choreography is skillfully pulled off by the boys as they loom and appear from various parts of the set throughout. Special mention must also go to Alan Stocks who plays numerous characters from bus driver, airport official to Greek policeman, doing so with great humour.

Take That's music is used cleverly to portray both louder moments such as the Apollo concert with loud sections and songs like 'Could It Be Magic' or 'Do What You Like' used but the music also plays alongside the more moving sections with gorgeous renditions of 'Patience' and 'Rule The World' that will almost certainly move you to tears. The music compliments the story well throughout.

The set designed by Lucy Osborne cleverly manages to open out to show the variety of locations although it does lack a bit of colour and the scene changes are a little clunky. Lighting by Rob Casey does bring some of that colour, the concert sections feel real with lights bright and dazzling shining on the stage and into the audience whilst a softer light is used when required. Tony Gayle's sound design just about keeps on top of the booming music.

The atmosphere in the auditorium is buzzing before the show begins and the musicians under the direction of Josh Cottell make a great sound, you leave the theatre feeling like I'd been to a real gig after a crowd-pleasing curtain call that has the audience on its feet joining in with the iconic moves of numbers like 'Never Forget'.

This may be a musical that is more geared toward a female crowd with the story of female friendship at its core but this is a piece that will touch your heart and long for the nostalgia of your teenage years past and the friendships that maybe once were.

Greatest Days plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 9th September with tickets available from The tour continues thereafter with venues and booking information from You can also currently watch the film version of Greatest Days on Amazon Prime in the UK.

The cast of Greatest Days. Photo by  Alastair Muir

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