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NEVER FORGET

14-05-2009

Never forget

The musical based on the songs of Take That rocks up at the Alexandra Theatre. Terry Wills surprises himself by enjoying it.

An admission. My knowledge of most boy bands, including Take That, is minimal.

Apart from knowing, courtesy of the national media, that their decision to split in 1996 had led to the Samaritans setting up a special helpline enabling their countless number of fans to cope with disbelieving grief (!) and many music pundits claiming they’d been the best band since the legendary Beatles.

Formed in Manchester in 1990, by Gary Barlow, and including a certain Robbie Williams, Take That took the pop world by storm, enjoyed a string of hits, only to see it all fall apart in 1995 following Robbie Williams decision to walk out to pursue a solo career.

A year later came the announcement. ‘Take That’ were no more. Hence the devastation that ultimately claimed many fans were so stressed that they confessed they no longer wanted to live and indeed some had made the ultimate sacrifice.

2005 the rebirth. The band reformed, without Robbie Williams, could they possibly repeat their previous decades success? It’s 2009 and Take That are back in the groove. Back in the charts- selling hit records, and selling out major venues on tour.

So on to Never Forget, a musical based on the songs, if not the factual story of the band. Although to the writers credit they have cleverly written a storyline encompassing a lead singer of a ‘Take That’ tribute band.

He’s Ash Sherwood a talented young singer-songwriter. His girl friend Chloe has accepted his ‘will you marry me’ proposal. Mother Babs owns a pub that’s threatened with closure due to mounting debts. Four other singers also successfully audition for the tribute band and join Ash by signing contracts under the somewhat dodgy management of Ron Freeman who has money problems of his own.

Devious Ron is desperately looking for a boy band who can win the title of the Ultimate Tribute Band. The first step on a road hopefully ending with fame and fortune and not only for the band.

Enter Annie Borrowman, a record producer friend of Ron who urges Ash to leave the band and sign a solo contract, which he first rejects only to reconsider when realising the reward, would pay off his mother’s debts.

Complications set in as Annie attempts to seduce Ash in view of Chloe who storms off before breaking off the engagement, the four remaining band members decide to carry on without Ash but eventually all is resolved, wedding bells ring out and it’s ‘Happy Ever After’ time.

Never Forget, judged by the first night audience’s reaction, will be a very popular attraction due to it’s unbounded enthusiasm from singers and dancers alike.

Ash, played by Mark Willshire, goes down a storm. His fellow members all have distinctive parts, subtle play on words (!) especially in a gym scene where the female members of the audience couldn’t restrain their joy at the sight of the scantily clad performers!

Dirty Harry, played by Philip Oliver, probably best known by TV soap fans as Timothy O’Leary (Tinhead in Brookside) a role he played for seven years, evokes most laughter while Jose Reize a Spanish group member played by Scott Farnham has the amusing habit by stressing “we have a saying in Spain…before uttering sentences that no one can understand!

Aimie Atkinson as Chloe grows into her role via increasingly strong vocals. Penelope Woodman plays a caring mother urging Ash not worry about her problems “ just do what is best for you and Chloe” while the devious but eventually repentant Ron is an increasingly funny Teddy Kempner.

But of course it’s the songs written and composed by Gary Barlow that are the heart of the show and surprisingly I realised, albeit subconsciously, some of them had stuck in my mind despite the generation gap!

“Could it be Magic”-“Pray” –“Never forget” -“It only takes a Minute”-“I found Heaven”-“Once you’ve Tasted Love” and “Relight my Fire”

A word of praise for the set design of Morgan Large and the Special effects Designer Le Maitre.

A semi circle illuminated hoop, resembling for those who remember TV’s ‘Time Tunnel’ (?) allowed swift smooth changes while in one scene the cast are singing and dancing from ‘rain’ sheltering under umbrellas.

The rain appears genuine but when the stage clears the stage there’s no sign of any water.

(Could have been a trailer for the coming production of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’!)

How this ingenious effect is created I haven’t the faintest idea but it’s certainly worth a word of congratulations.

Choreographer Karen Bruce also brings out the best from the young cast.

Energetic and eye catching dance routines, topped in a sequence set against a background of ‘Catchy’ foot tapping’ Latin temperament music.

Taken all round‘Never Forget’ is a musical that will, in all probability, delight audiences. Especially those who have grown up with the music of ‘Take That’ in general, and Gary Barlow in particular.

Finally, as always,s I tend to gauge the popularity of any musical based on the reception given at the end of the show.

In this instance as the company, in common with most shows of this genre, encouraged the audience to join in a reprise of the most popular numbers, the response spoke for itself.

Standing, arm waving, clapping and cheering, especially as Relight My Fire ended an enjoyable night with cries of ‘more, more’ ringing in the ears.

THAT said it all and summed up the evening.

Runs until 23 May. Ticket details at http://www.alexandratheatre.org.uk

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