Jun 19, 2023
Aisling Bea, Marc Wootton, Jayde Adams, Alice Lowe, Amaka Okafor
Jukebox musicals are the ultimate shortcut where creativity is concerned. Plunder the back catalogue of a well-known artist and weave the songs around the flimsiest of plots; throw in some decent production values and you might have a hit on the West End stage. But how well does the idea transfer onto the big screen? Director Coky Giedroyc has made a remarkably good fist of it with this effort inspired by the hits of Take That. Greatest Days has enjoyed success in the West End and on two UK tours. It follows an earlier Take That musical called Never Forget which sets the story much closer to the band. In contrast, the later iteration concentrates more on the impact the band had on their fans.
Forty something nurse Rachel (Aisling Bea) is anxiously awaiting the result of a radio competition. The prize is four tickets to watch her favourite group The Boys perform at a reunion concert in Athens. Much to her shock and delight she wins but is in something of a quandary. Her wannabe fiancé Jeff (Mark Wootton) naturally assumes he will be on the plane. But Rachel sees it as a means of reuniting with her best friends whom she hasn’t seen in 25 years. They were once inseparable and united by their love for the Boys. But their friendship was broken by tragedy returning from a gig in the early 90s. The story unfolds in flashback as their lives are traced into adulthood with the songs adding flavour to the narrative.
The film unashamedly borrows the template used by Mamma Mia to such great effect. However, it scores points for a stronger plot that is both feasible and coherent. The songs are on occasion cleverly worked into key phases of the story. Rachel’s troubled childhood is tempered by The Boys miraculously appearing to see her through the rough patches. However, its origins are betrayed as it slips into big production numbers that can only have been conceived on stage. The most touching sequence is when the women sing ‘Back for good’ to their younger selves. It strikes a chord as a testament to lost youth and how music shapes our lives.
It won’t be jostling for nominations when the Oscars come knocking, but has a natural energy that quickly rubs off on the viewer. It provides simple and accessible entertainment that doesn’t require too much effort. Not quite Saturday night at the movies but definitely a treat early on a Friday evening.