Taking the hits of a band as successful as Take That and fashioning a show around them should at least give the audience a string of songs to enjoy. And for most of the audience this was what was delivered, there is little denying that the songs are good. And at the start of the show the “boys” burst out onto the stage and belt them out with gusto and with energy. Those opening numbers set the bar pretty high in terms of sound and choreography and hats off to the five young men who dance their way through them and through what is to follow. They are excellent, even with one understudy taking to the stage they are step perfect.
So there we had it, great music, energy, dance and… now what was missing? Well to be cruelly honest what was missing from that point on was a decent story. The plot of this confection is pretty lame and desperately predictable with cliche larded upon cliche. Screeching schoolgirls, fans of the “boys”, talk about their dreams and aspirations, face tragedy (dealt with so cursorily) and before we know they are grown, meet again in some far fetched yarn, and rediscover their teenage friendship.
Writer Tim Firth is better than this, far better. His musical version of Calendar Girls with new songs by Gary Barlow is an excellent example of how good he can be. But here the thinly sketched story gives what might be a first class cast nothing to work with and nowhere to go. It’s tragic when you know how good a performer like Jennifer Ellison can be, a woman who can nail her west end role in Chicago deserves so much better.
A word too about a set that seems to be wholly driven by the notion of an Athenian amphitheatre, is ugly and clunky. So much so that at one point the production had to be stopped for a “technical issue”. I felt for the five talented young men who not only have sing and dance but also have to lumber around that clumsy set. Thank heavens they do not have to act as well!
All this said the audience revelled in hearing the songs and loved it. I loved the songs too, admired the energy and… craved a decent story!
Theatre Royal Brighton