Review: Greatest Days Musical at Sunderland Empire
Greatest Days, Sunderland Empire
14th November 2023
I will be totally honest; I did not expect to enjoy this. It is a jukebox musical based around the back catalogue of Take That. It is also a reimagined jukebox musical called ‘The Band’ and I held out very poor hopes. I was wrong.
With a book in the safe hands of Tim Firth, Greatest Days offers a gorgeous story which tugs at the heart strings of anyone, male or female, who has ever got themselves in a tizzy about a pop star or a group back in the 90’s. It is very cheesy, but that is what you expect from such a production and there are many parallels with Mamma Mia which pre-dates it by several years.
The audience is introduced at the outset with five feisty teenagers who are obsessed with a boy band. Their excitement and the adoration of these fit boys is evident throughout the show. It’s a story of wants and dreams tempered with reality that really gives the heart to the production.
We see the girls as love struck teenagers as they turn into the adult equivalents who are learning about themselves and remembering what they once were when they reconvene after many years to join again for another concert in Athens, yes Athens, when one of them wins tickets in a radio competition.
The joy of this production is in the writing of the book. There is joy, trauma, love, dashed expectations and redemption. There is a tragic narrative which is beautifully enacted and brought tears to my eyes several times. The interaction between the younger and older girls is beautifully imagined.
For fans of Take That – all of their hits are interwoven very cleverly into the story and none of them feel shoe-horned in which is testament to the writing team. I particularly liked that the boy band who were very well performed by the actors never interrupt what is a carefully written piece that tells of broken dreams, love and sorority.
I don’t like jukebox musicals but I really enjoyed this production because while the music may categorise it as a jukebox musical, the story is more important.
The set is quite simple but as always is more than the sum of its parts and was skilfully manoeuvred by the aforementioned boy band. They really work hard in this production. The lighting was also great but I have to whinge about being blinded a lot – stop doing that lighting designers – it’s flipping unpleasant.
Anyone who has a penchant for Take That will obviously enjoy this show. All the hits are there and quite seamlessly interwoven into the story. Any girl, and I have never felt so manly in my life given the demography of the audience, will be enthralled by the story which is quite delightful.
I have deliberately not mentioned any of the actors this evening because they all added to a wonderful piece of musical theatre that I would quite happily watch again.
GREATEST Days will shine on Sunderland Empire’s stage fromTuesday 14 – Saturday 18 November 2023. Tickets on sale now at ATGTickets.com/Sunderland.*
*A £3.65 transaction fee applies to online bookings.
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