girl fans

The girls laying down the memories for a future journey of nostalgia.

Pictures: Alastair Muir

Greatest Days

Wolverhampton Grand


They say you will always remember where you were when you heard about 9/11 or perhaps for others the news that JFK had been shot is a moment in history etched into the memory.

However, for some of us nineties kids the 13th of February 1996 is a day we’ll “Never Forget”; the day when Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Jason and Howard announced that The Band were breaking up.

Robbie Williams had dramatically left the boy band sensation that was Take That only months before and life was never going to be the same again. The memories of standing outside of Topshop in Birmingham are vivid, girls screaming in disbelief, in floods of tears, the hysteria was real.

Teenagers across the world refused to leave their bedrooms, writing heartfelt begging letters, pleading for it not to be true.

For many fans, Take That weren’t just a boy band they were EVERYTHING and the soundtrack to every moment of their teenage lives, the angst, the heartbreaks and the happiest of carefree days with their mates; Greatest Days, the Official Take That musical previously named The Band captures this perfectly.

The production itself does not reference Take That and only ever refers to the group as “The boys”. Take That fans might be disappointed to learn that this is not a story about the boys themselves, but about a group of school friends from the North West,  and who despite their very different characters and personalities all share one common love or rather obsession for “The Band”. 

Act One follows the five girls as they were then, at 16 in the nineties. The days of posters on bedroom walls, Top of the Pops on the telly, cassette players and the latest copy of Smash Hits!

We see glimpses into their home lives, skipping school to get ready for a concert that Debbie has won in a competition, their joy at seeing “The Boys” only feet away from them on stage, all dizzy and for young Zoe, faint with excitement, their bus journey home which included a brilliant performance of Relight my Fire and their pledge on the rocks to never lose touch.

The five young actresses including Kitty Harris (Young Heather), Mari McGinlay (Young Claire) and Hannah Brown (Young Zoe) are fantastic together and fizzed with enthusiasm and realism; bringing their individual characters to life effortlessly.

Particular mention must go to understudies, Bayley Hart (Debbie) and Evangeline Jarvis Jones (Young Rachel) who both gave excellent performances and epitomised everything it was to have a teenage best friend, making it all the more poignant when a tragic twist at the end of act one sees the demise of the group’s friendship and they go their separate ways.

baoys in bnd

The boys in the band:Regan Gascoigne, (left), Archie Durrant, Jamie Corner, Kalifa Burto and Alexanda O’Reilly

Fast forward twenty years and we meet Rachel, (played by understudy Rachel Marwood) who gives a solid and confident performance as the central character of the group. Rachel lives with long term partner, Jeff (Christopher D. Hunt) and there are some great comedic exchanges between the pair. Life is, in her words “a good 8/10” but Rachel is missing a part of herself that faded away when she lost touch with her childhood friends.

Taking the bull by the horns she decides to enter a radio competition and wins tickets to see “The Band” in concert in Athens, making contact with her long-lost school pals to invite them along, in the hope of reuniting and reliving the greatest days of her life.

Enter Heather (played by understudy, Charlotte Anne Steen), Zoe (Holly Ashton) and Claire (Jamie-Rose Monk), three very different women to the young girls we met in the first half, all of whom have followed different paths to the ones predicted for them as teens but who are still very much those young girls at heart. They each give fine performances and created a genuine sense of camaraderie as they relive their youth, breaking the penis of a Greek statue in the process, sharing truths in a Greek Police station and missing the concert!

The iconic catalogue of Take That songs, including Pray, Back for Good, Shine and many more underscores each scene and each moment of their lives to perfection.

Unlike some jukebox musicals if feels as though the music was written for the story, rather than the other way round. “The Boys” themselves, who incidentally bear no resemblance to the famous five, are on in almost every scene, yet they are not the stars of the show, very much taking a backseat to the girls and appearing as a Greek chorus underpinning the story.

They handle the various vocals and choreography with ease and certainly look the part, although much fresher faced and more One Direction looking than the 90s Take That heartthrobs!

Special mention for Alan Stocks who takes on several comic character parts throughout and is a joy.  

Greatest Days is a nostalgic, feel-good musical that takes us on a trip down memory lane. You don’t have to be a Take That fan to enjoy this musical because it’s not their story, it’s a story about life, self-discovery and ultimately friendship. Could it be magic? We absolutely think it is!

Emily & Dexter Whitehead


Index page Grand Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre