Review: Greatest Days at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: Greatest Days at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Greatest Days – Tuesday 30th May 

Newcastle Theatre Royal sold Greatest Days with this wonderful bio from their website described below and as it is the 30th anniversary of Take That’s first Number One it seems right that this tour takes off again.

Relight Your Fire with this sensational new production of Take That’s smash hit musical Greatest Days. Greatest Days features more than 15 record-breaking Take That songs, alongside a heart-warming and hilarious story of love, loss and laughter from award-winning writer Tim Firth that will make your heart Shine. The musical follows five boy band obsessed best friends in the 1990s, who reunite over 20 years later to see their heartthrobs one last time in what could be the Greatest Days of their life.

Greatest Days stars the award-winning Kym Marsh, who shot to stardom in noughties band Hear’Say and now best known for Coronation Street, Waterloo Road and as a presenter on the BBC’s Morning Live. Previously titled The Band, the show broke box office records and delighted audiences around the United Kingdom when it performed from 2017 – 2019. 

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Take That’s first ever UK number 1 single Pray and coinciding with the summer 2023 release of the official movie of this smash hit musical – Greatest Days is sure to be a night out at the theatre you will Never Forget. 

I have fancied seeing this musical for such a long time as I am a huge fan of boy bands … and Robbie Williams of course! I didn’t know what to expect but it certainly wasn’t what I watched last night. I had a whole different concept dreamt up in my head of what this musical would entail for some reason. 

One thing I will say about Tim Firth is that he knows how to put a brilliant storyline together. He has also sewn his magic into Calendar Girls and Our House which are two popular shows in the amateur dramatic world right now. Both glorious shows with wonderful music so I did have very high hopes for this too. 

The crowd were so excited as we entered the Theatre Royal and we were welcomed with DJ Dave’s 90’s Gold FM. This was a really fun touch and an immediate throwback to the 90’s to get us all in the zone. It was lovely to see such a diverse audience there and with it being half term there were actually a few families with older children  dotted around. 

As the curtains rose, we were introduced to our main character Rachel, who was played by the wonderful Kym Marsh- does this woman ever age? She looks better now than she did back in the Hear’Say days! Kym delivered a really believable role and showed her experience upon stage when delivering the role of Rachel.

I really loved this little Segway where young Rachel appears on stage who is actually played by her own daughter, Emilie Cunliffe. I actually got a little emotional when her and Emily had this moment together as I know how excited they were to be on stage together too.

My best friend was actually so baffled by how similar they looked and sounded until she realised they were Mother and Daughter … makes total sense. This was such a perfect fit for the show!

I adored all of the 90s references we were immediately thrown into- the photos all over the locker, the cassette recording, the way in which they spoke – OHMYGOD!, the old school radio playing and not least, the fashion choices. The costuming supervisor Martin Rogers did such a brilliant job – particularly with the dungarees and the denim mini skirt and leggings combo. Speaking of costumes, I really enjoyed the colour coordination throughout. The second half brought us the 40 year olds coming into play with their younger selves and this was depicted very clearly with colours – Heather in purple, Zoe in blue, Claire in Green and Rachel in red. This stopped any confusion of characters and actually looked so cohesive on stage. I really love it when you can see the clear vision being implemented so well. 

I really feel like they missed a trick with scenery however, I’m all for a simple staging but I do feel at times, it was a little confusing to depict where they were and it almost felt a little clumpy on stage with the big stairs. They were not easy to move around and it was distracting at times when they were moving although those on stage did an excellent job of moving the scenery. Not as slick or exciting as I’d have liked. I did, however, enjoy the use of props to depict the bus and airplane and this provided great comic relief by Alan Stocks who played Dave … and many other characters he had to portray throughout. Alan was a superstar and we saw him pop up throughout the show as the man with many jobs – the caretaker, the bus driver, the roadie, the flight attendant, the policeman … honestly the list goes on!

Meeting the younger girls was one of the highlights for me. The young actors truly grabbed their roles by the horns and we could see every single element of their characters portrayed to perfection.  Quite honestly, these five girls were my stand outs of the show and I only wish we got to hear them sing even more.

Kitty Harris who played Young Heather was every inch the sassy, fashionable ‘it’ girl and these kinds of roles can often come across as being so unlikeable but she provided the character with fun, kindness and warmth as well.

Emily Cuncliffe has stunning vocals and played all emotions so effortlessly. I genuinely believed her crying when she was upset on stage. I forgot we were watching a show as it was so believable.

Hannah Brown played our studious, hard working Young Zoe and was so sweet on stage. In the second half we got to hear the girls sing and I was blown away by her stunning vocals alongside Mari McGinlay who played Young Claire. Finally, Bayley Hart, who is an understudy, played Debbie. She had such a beautiful stage presence and really brought the girl gang together. I particularly enjoyed her Lulu solo in Relight my Fire. I can’t quite believe she is an understudy as she was truly magical upon that stage. A name for the future I do believe. 

The boyband played by Kalifa Burton, Jamie Corner, Archie Durante, Regan Gascoine and Alexanda O’ Reilly certainly looked the part upon the stage. Their choreography was incredible and every inch Take That back in the day. Powerful, dynamic and honestly, pretty sexy. I thought I was at Magic Mike! I was, however, a little confused by the vocals at some points. They were incredibly quiet against the loud band and I couldn’t work out if this was to mirror the image of being at a concert or whether the fact the mics weren’t holding up that great – the levels seemed off for me and I found myself straining to hear them at times. I really enjoy Take That’s music and at certain moments through the show I just couldn’t get away with how the music was being put across. Not my favourite vocal performance I’ve ever watched. 

I will say however Jamie Corner leading Shine was truly wonderful and gave the good punch of power we needed at the end of Act One. In the second half, I really enjoyed the power behind the vocals of The Flood too- just what I needed! The lighting in this part of the show was also really impressive and very different to anything I’ve seen before- you really were transported to the concert with flashing lights, strobes and spotlights. Well done to Rob Casey on lighting design.

We got to hear all of the girls sing during Rule the World and their voices paired together were truly stunning. Like I said, I just wish we had more opportunities to listen to them sing throughout. It was such a beautiful moment as the younger girls were singing to their older selves. We often reflect on our younger days and it was a really touching part of the show which many will be able to relate to. The women were just so fantastic and worked so well as a team alongside Kym Marsh- I genuinely felt their connection on stage and they provided us with so much comedy within the second half. Holly Ashton as Zoe, Rachel Marwood as Heather and Jamie-Rose Monk as Claire delivered tremendous performances both individually and as a team. 

I will say, I definitely didn’t expect to cry as much as I did throughout the show and I think that’s why it was so different from what I had expected. So just be prepared and take some tissues- you will need them! It was a rip roar of emotions throughout and made me laugh and cry in the same breath. I truly adored the storyline and it really just reminded me of me and my friends. It also puts life into perspective, that we aren’t here forever and should make the most of every moment. 

At the end, the whole crowd were on their feet- dancing and joining in with the cast for a Take That medley. A great job done by all… a wonderful storyline, brilliant acting, dynamic dancing and an all round fun time. 

-Robyn McGough

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