Milton Keynes Theatre
2 June 2009
Never forget the real thing
Never Forget, or the ‘Take That musical’ is possibly the campest musical that I have seen in a long while, and I think that’s saying something! But it’s loads of fun and made me smile a lot throughout!
It’s the story of five lads who audition to join a ‘Take That’ tribute band as a way out of their current lives and problems. It’s the bog standard morality tale that’s often used to link songs in juke box musicals – fame slash love slash lust (insert whichever is most appropriate) comes at a price etc etc etc - but to be fair, this one does have some quite amusing lines!
In any case, to be honest, I really wasn’t too fussed about the story. I actually gave up on it after one of the boys decides he wants to leave the band to pursue a solo career (predictably), and all the others are really upset – but they’ve only ever done ONE GIG anyway by this point, so I felt it was a bit of an over reaction! Instead, I concentrated on the fact that the whole show is really just an excuse to play some of the fab fives’ great back catalogue and I spent much of the show remembering and marvelling at how Gary Barlow had written such fabulous tunes!
The five guys in the lead roles were Mark Willshire as Ash, the Gary Barlow figure, who had a good voice but seemed to struggle a bit with the high notes. Then there was Adam C Booth as Jake (Robbie) who had some of the best comedy lines which he delivered well and was probably the best dancer of the five. I really warmed to Tom Bradley as Adrian, the awkward banker who gradually grows in confidence and this journey provides him with some lovely comic business. And Scott Garnham also gets a lot of laughs as the Spaniard Jose who loves and reveres his mother (as we all should of course!)
Philip Olivier, bless him, as Dirty Harry, is not a singer or a dancer, and he admitted as much to me in a pre-show interview, saying that he had a very hard time learning these skills just for this show. But to be fair he has a good stab at it and plays the role of the stripper who’s not the sharpest tool in the box, with genial charm. But his main attraction of course is his fine physique – and with this he certainly doesn’t disappoint. He gets his kit off within five minutes of first appearing on stage, much to the appreciation of the mostly female audience, myself included!
In reality none of the lead five lads are great dancers, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and put this down to the fact that the story is about how they had just started out in a tribute band, so were still learning to dance like TT. Ergo, it was all part of the show. However, they were all probably still better than Gary Barlow still is!
The backing dancers were an entirely different story though – all excellent - and I enjoyed Karen Bruce’s choreography too.
It all builds into a grand finale and the obligatory montage of the band’s songs with the audience on their feet, singing, clapping and dancing as if it was the real thing.
But it wasn’t. It was great fun, but it wasn’t TT. Nevertheless, if you love the UK’s best-loved pop band then you’ll enjoy this too –especially if you’re in a Hen Party! However, it made me never forget that you really can’t beat the real thing! Roll on the 4th July at Wembley!
Just one note to prospective audiences. It all starts with a loud note that will make you jump. You can jump, by all means, but please don’t laugh for TEN MINUTES about the fact that you jumped! It’s REALLY annoying.