Tonight this could be the greatest night of your life
The show opens and you are thrown head first into a whirlwind of teenage nostalgia. You see five friends, played by Olivia Hallett, Kitty Harris, Hannah Brown, Mari McGinlay and Mary Moore, get caught up in the excitement of their favourite band, with a lust for life and the unjaded optimism of what lies ahead.
For those who are unaware of the story; the musical follows five boy band obsessed best friends in the 1990s making promises and pacts, hopeful for the future. I am taken straight back to a time when I would shut myself away in my bedroom with my best friends, music blaring out of the stereo(!), learning new dance moves and giggling over our latest obsession. You can’t help but feel a sense of longing for that younger carefree self. Which is what this show does for you, it takes you on a journey of reminiscing; reliving moments of being lost in a teenage dream but then confronts you with the realities of life.
Sadly when tragedy strikes, the young friends are thrown into a spiral of despair that sees them drift apart. The emotional turning point saw me subtly trying to reach for a tissue and hold back the despair from escaping in a sob. They captured the moment flawlessly, drawing the audience into the heartbreak they felt.
PICTURED ABOVE: Regan Gascoigne, Kalifa Burton, Archie Durrant, Jamie Corner & Alexanda O’Reilly in GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair Muir
PICTURED ABOVE: (Left) Jennifer Ellison. (Right) Regan Gascoigne, Archie Durrant, Kalifa Burton, Jamie Corner & Alexanda O’Reilly in GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair Muir
Fast-forward over 20 years later you are introduced to their adult selves, played by Jennifer Ellison, Holly Ashton, Rachael Marwood and Jamie-Rose Monk, who reunite to see their heartthrobs one last time. You watch as they untangle the twists and turns life has thrown at them trying to gain a better understanding of each other, putting expectations aside and trying to help each other heal the scars from the past.
Amongst the highs and lows of life they each have the consistency of a love of music. This is brought to us in form of the epic back catalogue of Take That hits, that make up the soundtrack to the show. Live on stage you have the boyband, played by Kalifa Burton, Jamie Corner Archie Durrant, Regan Gascoigne and Alexanda O’Reilly energetically working the songs around the story, you are treated to hit-after-hit. The atmosphere amongst the audience was electric, clearly full of Take That fans wanting to join in with every word and move, I could see people around me making their best efforts to not jump up and belt out a number themselves! At times the boyband treated the audience as if they were indeed a crowd at a concert and encouraged them to join in, you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief that there was an outlet for the pent up excited energy that had been respectfully restrained. They fully submerged us in the belief we were back in the 90s with the classic dance moves that could set the heart aflutter!
A beautiful moment in the show was when the ladies faced their younger selves in a heart wrenching rendition of A Million Love Songs, which saw them stop running from their past and instead use it to reignite a fire within each one of them that they forgot existed, learning to accept and love themselves and strive to achieve new or forgotten dreams.
Comic relief throughout the story came in the form of Every Dave played by Alan Stocks, who took on numerous roles including janitor, roadie and a police officer, to name a few. He would appear on stage singing a line or dropping a joke that had the audience laughing along. Christopher D. Hunt who played Jeff, also portrayed a loveable and funny character who had his own life revelation as a ripple effect from his partners adventures and saw him being a strong stable figure, supporting her when she needed it.
(Left to rigth) Regan Gascoigne, Archie Durrant, Jamie Corner, Kalifa Burto & Alexanda O’Reilly in GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair Muir
You may not be surprised to hear that the show of course ended with a standing ovation. Everyone had been practically on the edge of their seats waiting for their own moment to shine as we were all invited to sing and dance along with the closing montage of hits, it felt like pure joy in that theatre.
Confession time, I was never a die-hard Take That fan, but I have been a lifetime appreciator of their music and certainly know nearly every word to their songs. I mention this just to stress that this show is for everyone! Whether you have a lifetime membership to their fan club or just appreciate a song that can have you singing at the top of your lungs, this is a must see!
Greatest Days is playing at Mayflower Theatre until the 30th September so there is still time to book your ticket www.mayflower.org.uk
Words by Vicky Anscombe