RELIGHT YOUR FIRE!
We caught up with popular TV actress and presenter Kym Marsh, who will be playing Rachel, and her daughter Emilie Cunliffe, who plays Young Rachel in Greatest Days, the official Take That musical, coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal Mon 29 May – Sat 3 Jun 2023.
What appealed to you about doing the show?
Kym: Everything, really. I got given the script and it was amazing. The story is beautiful and it has a bit of everything. It’s emotional, it’s inspiring, it’s very funny and I love the characters. Then you add Take That’s amazing music to the mix and what’s not to love, really?
Emilie: I feel the same. I love how the story flits back in time and you learn about these women when they were younger and how they grew up. It’s all about their lives and their music, and as Mum says, it’s so funny and so emotional. It takes you on a rollercoaster through their lives and audiences are going to love it.
Who do you play in it and how would you describe your characters?
Kym: We play Rachel in two different forms. I play the older Rachel and Emilie plays the younger Rachel. It’s really lovely that we play these different versions of the same character and the other characters in the story all have younger and older versions as well. It’s about a group of friends who fell in love with a boyband back in the day, as we all did. [Laughs] For me, it was New Kids on the Block, that’s how old I am. It’s that thing of having a group of friends who all love the same band. Without giving anything away, there’s a bit of a twist to the story when they’re younger and we get to see what’s happened to them since that time. It’s about how the love of a boyband brings them back together.
Emilie: Young Rachel is fun. It’s great to see the relationship between her group of friends because it’s so true to life. They’re always bickering or taking the mickey out of each other. She’s all about her friends and music, and she’s crazy about the band.
Kym: Something happens that changes all of their lives and it transports you in time, where you see where life has taken them. The love of the band is still there, even as older women, which I think is true of Take That fans. Back in the day, in the early 90s, they had that kind of pull. Then they went away, came back and the fans were still there for them, except they were all like my age now.
Emilie, how is it playing a younger version of your mum?
Emilie: We resemble each other so much anyway, which is great, and it’s such fun to be doing this. You see the younger Rachel’s personality and then Rachel when she’s older, and it’s interesting to explore that. Mum has been giving me tips and when we did the first read through it felt like the character was in sync personality-wise.
Kym, do you see any of the young you in your daughter?
Kym: I see a lot of myself in Emilie. She has the same passion. She loves music and drama. She enjoys performing. And she’s a young mum, as was I. I was 21 when I had her and she was 21 when she had her son. She’s feisty, she’s funny and she’s really driven. Over the last 12 months, she’s recorded her first album out in Nashville, now she’s doing this show, and I’ve seen her grow so much as a woman and as an artist in that time. It’s been an absolute joy to watch and now to share the stage with her is an absolute pleasure.
Emilie: That’s nice, Mum! Music is my passion and it’s a big thing for me but I’m loving the challenge of being in a show.
Have you worked together before?
Kym: We’ve sang on stage together before now. [Laughs] I used to get Emilie up on stage to sing with me when she was 14 but we’ve never actually worked together professionally.
Emilie: So it’s a new experience and having Mum with me for support is great. I’ve got two young kids at home and that was my biggest worry. It’s taken a while to get past the dread of leaving the kids because my life has revolved around them.
Kym: The thought of being away from them is worse than when you’re actually in it, because when you are in it, you just make it work. It’s about juggling things and what Emilie has is exactly what I had, which is a really supportive family network. I don’t know what I would have done without my family. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do all the things I’ve done in my career. I had to leave my kids from time to time and when I asked Emilie ‘How did it affect your life?’ she was like ‘Obviously we missed you but we saw you because everyone made more of an effort’.
Were you both Take That fans before you signed up for the show?
Kym: I remember them when they wore leather gear – that very strange styling that they went through at the beginning – and I loved them from the start. What’s great about them is the music and people who come along to the show are going to love it. It doesn’t matter how old they are. Take That’s music speaks to people of all different ages and everybody knows them.
Emilie: Mum listened to their music when I was younger, then when they came back she went to a concert and was sending me pictures and videos. I was like ‘Oh my God, amazing!’ Now I love them and I’m a big fan myself.
Have you met any of them?
Kym: I have, yes, on several occasions. Me and Mark Owen were signed to the same record label for a while. I’ve met Robbie several times and Gary too. I’ve met them all at some stage and it’s been a privilege because they’re so talented. There’s a reason their music has such longevity. It’s timeless.
Do you have a favourite song in the show?
Emilie: Everyone loves a bit of Shine, don’t they? And I love Back for Good. I’m a sucker for that song.
Kym: It reminds me of my son because he was born in 1995 and it was number one on the day he was born. So obviously I love Back for Good. I also love Patience and Hold Up a Light, which is a song I feel gets forgotten but what a tune that is.
What are you most looking forward to about taking the show around the country?
Emilie: It’s my first time doing something like this, so it’s an unknown to me. Speaking about the kids again, they’re going to come and stay with us at different venues whenever they can, although one of them is in school so it depends on term times. But I can’t wait really because it’s new and exciting.
Kym: Obviously I know what it feels like to go around the country and every single night is different. I’ve worked in television for a long time now and it’s brilliant but there’s nothing quite like a live audience. There’s nothing like that buzz of being on stage in front of people, having that instant reaction, knowing there’s going to be laughter in different places, listening to how people respond to the music. I’m also looking forward to being with Emilie and watching her taking her first steps in theatre. I’m having a proud mum moment all the time.
What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing the show?
Emilie: Like I said before, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. You laugh, you sing, you have so much fun, yet at the same time there’s a lot of drama in it. If it was me watching it, I’d come out of the theatre and be like ‘Woah, what a story and what fun that was!’
Kym: I agree. You’re going to come out feeling all sorts of different emotions but fundamentally you’ll be going ‘What a great night!’ The story is brilliant, the music is brilliant and everybody will be on their feet at the end.
How would feel if you heard that Gary, Mark and Howard were in the audience?
Emilie: [Laughs] I’d be like ‘Erm, OK!’ But you’d just have to make them proud. I’d be nervous but I’ll be nervous at every performance anyway.
Kym: You won’t. The nerves will go. But we’d all be so excited and buzzing to know they were there.
Are there any stops on the tour that are dear to your heart?
Kym: Manchester will be a big one, Liverpool will be a big one, as will Newcastle and Wolverhampton, which is our last stop on the tour because I have other work commitments and Emilie is getting married in August. There’s a wedding to plan! We feel very lucky to be visiting so many towns and cities and Emilie is going to see some amazing theatres. I toured with Fatal Attraction last year and when you stand on those stages and look out into the auditorium it’s incredible.
Greatest Days features more than 15 record-breaking Take That songs alongside a touching and hilarious 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 in the 1990’s who are obsessed with their favourite boy band. The girls then reunite more than 20 years later with a plan to see their heartthrobs one last time in what could be the Greatest Days of their lives.
Greatest Days plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Mon 29 May – Sat 3 Jun 2023. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.
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