Greatest Days review: "Vibrant musical propelled by a stream of Take That bangers"

 Greatest Days
Greatest Days

Adapted by Tim Firth from his own stage musical The Band and directed by Coky Giedroyc (How to Build a Girl), Greatest Days is billed as "the official Take That musical".

But though its soundtrack sports sundry reworked Take That songs, this is neither biopic nor A Hard Day’s Night-style caper. Instead, the focus is on five fangirls and, by extension, pop music’s ability to transport us emotionally.

The premise is (deceptively) straightforward: forty-something nurse Rachel (Aisling Bea) wins a competition to see her favourite teenhood boy band play in Athens. Given four extra tickets, she invites her closest pals from school in Clitheroe, despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other for 25 years…

Switching confidently between two time frames – 1993 and present day – and casts (the adult contingent includes Alice Lowe, Jayde Adams, Amaka Okafor and, as Bea’s husband, Marc Wootton), the story is structured around a series of spectacular song-and-dance set pieces. The first flashback Introduces us to Rachel’s adolescent self (played by Lara McDonnell, a convincing match for Bea), who has the gift of being able to summon from imagination her favourite (unnamed) pop idols, prompting drab reality to give way to exuberant fantasy.

Giedroyc doesn’t ignore life’s inevitable sadnesses – along the way there are unexpected bereavements, family rifts, unfulfilled youthful dreams… It’s the uplift that sticks, though. Greatest Days’ greatest scene sees the women preparing to board a budget flight in a Busby Berkeley-esque whirl of gold ball gowns, top hats and canes, and geometric patterns. "Let It Shine", indeed…

Greatest Days is in UK cinemas on June 16. For more upcoming films, check out our 2023 movie release dates.