Review: How much did Greatest Days (the official Take That musical) Shine at Milton Keynes Theatre?

We’re not Take That superfans so, let's face it, a trip to Milton Keynes Theatre for my wife and I to see a musical based on their many hits was not likely to turn Monday into the “greatest day of our lives”.
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But it was nevertheless a chance for a nostalgic trip back in time to the 1990s – and nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Take That’s first ever UK number 1 single Pray, Greatest Days features more than 15 songs alongside a uplifting story of love, loss and laughter from the award-winning writer Tim Firth (Calendar Girls, Kinky Boots).

The musical follows a group of five best friends (Rachel, Zoe, Heather, Claire and Debbie) in the 1990s who are obsessed with their favourite boy band. It’s a time of Smash Hits magazine, Top of the Pops being a ratings winner, and taping music off the TV to listen to it again and again with the help of a clunky cassette recorder.

The cast of GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair MuirThe cast of GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair Muir
The cast of GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair Muir

The girls see the band for the first time at a Manchester gig and the excitement is overwhelming. But then they have to deal with tragedy which causes their friendship to unravel and they end up going their separate ways… That is until decades later when, as middle aged women, they reunite after Rachel (Kym Marsh) wins a competition to see the band in Athens and tracks them down to go with her.

So just like Take That themselves, the girls have a reunion - although this isn’t without its challenges as they start questioning why they’ve flown around the world to see a boy band as “we’re not 16 any more”.

I was expecting a Take That musical to go really strong on the songs and have little more than a threadbare plot as an excuse to link one hit to the next.

But nothing could be further from the truth, the story packed a real emotional punch and featured some truly poignant moments. A scene where the women are reflecting on their lives, which also featured their younger selves, is really quite thought-provoking and touching.

L-R: Hannah Brown, Mary Moore, Emilie Cunliffe, Kitty Harris & Mari McGinlay in GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair MuirL-R: Hannah Brown, Mary Moore, Emilie Cunliffe, Kitty Harris & Mari McGinlay in GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair Muir
L-R: Hannah Brown, Mary Moore, Emilie Cunliffe, Kitty Harris & Mari McGinlay in GREATEST DAYS, credit Alastair Muir

Take That aren't mentioned by name at all during the production and while their well-known songs certainly got the audience going, the music suprisingly (given it’s a musical after all) often plays second fiddle to the excellent acting.

The girls – both the younger and older versions – all make their mark, particularly Mary Moore as young Debbie who probably had the best vocals in the whole cast.

The boy band’s energy and excellent dance moves really stood out – a bit more than the lads’ actual singing which, although perfectly okay, I sometimes found I couldn’t hear clearly over the backing track itself.

This was one musical that was worth going to see as it certainly did Shine, even if it didn’t quite Rule The World in my eyes. Take That fans will lap up every second.

Greatest Days is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, July 8. To book see here