This is one of those times that being foreign has its distinct ups and downs. See, in the US, we never had Take That. Oh, we had plenty of boy bands but Manchester’s own never invaded our shores.
Needless to say, dear readers, you can guess the RZ’s level of enthusiasm and confusion at the prospect of spending £20 and an evening at a jukebox musical based on this group’s catalogue. Word from the road and previews was uninspiring, and neither was the fact that tonight’s press evening wasn’t fully booked. However, Never Forget is a new West End musical and therefore gets a visit.
Story-wise, Never Forget manages to hit a new low, even for jukebox musicals. Good guy Ash (Dean Chisnall) opens by proposing to girlfriend Chloe (Sophia Ragavelas, recently in Dick Whittington at the Hackney Empire). They have a party at his mum’s pub (Marilyn Cutts) where bill collectors come and announce that unless they fork over £10,000 in two weeks the bank will foreclose. In order to raise the money, Chloe’s brother (Craige Els) suggests the pair audition for a Take That cover band and win the money in a talent contest. The group is rounded out by three losers (a male stripper, a dominated bank manager, and an annoying fey Spaniard), Ash is seduced by a corrupt record producer, leaves the band and Chloe, realises his mistakes, and returns just in time to save the day just in time to get married in front of a children’s chorus used solely in the final scene.
Musically...it’s a jukebox show. If you like the band, you’ll like the music. If you’re not a Take That fan, this show won’t convert you. The RZ did actually recognise two songs in the score: “It Only Takes A Minute”, which was remixed and put into a DDR game (conveniently one of the songs nobody actually wants to play and also a cover for TT) and “Back For Good”, which was used for a huge piss-take in the last episode of Spaced. It’s all manufactured soulless pop music, enjoyable for three minutes at a time, though some of the extended production numbers (“Once You’ve Tasted Love”) run too long. The one good thing about the music is that it provides opportunities for Karen Bruce’s lively and well drilled choreography.
Bob Bailey’s set was designed for touring the show, and features some pure eye candy with a rain curtain that spells the words “Never Forget” and some fire bursts. James Whiteside’s lighting goes well with it, and there’s a lot of tricks with scrim and LED columns. While the actual set pieces look cheap, they work (and it’s not like Manchester is high end anyway.) More annoying are Chris Wood’s costumes, which range from chavtastic to pandering (the RZ lost count of how many times the guys stripped to their briefs) to flat out ugly and covered in brand names (Ecko and Nike were quite visible).
That said, the RZ found himself giving in and enjoying Never Forget despite its flaws and the large squealing fangirl presence. It’s not too long, and is something you can take your mum to, provided she prefers scantily clad young men to the cursing and crime in Jersey Boys. It does what the slogan says on the tin (they perform “A Million Love Songs” and there’s a happy ending) but the fails completely, as though one put a sign that said “Dog: A cute and loveable pet” in front of a cat. The cute and loveable part is right, but not the overall claim. It’s unlikely that the RZ will remember all but the most cursory details of Never Forget after 24 hours.
Where: Savoy Theatre
When: M-Th, Sa @ 19:45, Fr @ 17:30 & 20:30, Sa @ 15:00
How Much: Varies by night, overall £19.50-£55
Concessions: Day Seats and concessions available when the BO opens for £19.50 all days but Saturdays (£25.00).
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying’: £27.50. It’s candy floss for the mind and a fun way to pass an afternoon.
RZ Other Notes: The RZ sat in the day seats, which is amazing given that he was able to buy them for press night. It’s doubly amazing that he arrived five minutes before the box office opened and there was only one person ahead of him. Easiest rush in the West End?
The seats themselves aren’t horrid, but have their issues. You have to crane your neck a fair bit, get wet during the rain scene (not a lot), the lights get in your face a few times, and you’re sitting at eye (and ear) level with the speakers. The curtain call is damn loud, but in the end you get what you pay for.
Despite being pleasantly surprised by the show, the RZ wondered on more than one occasion why anybody would bother putting this show on. While a reunion gig can occur every five or ten years (as Take That themselves are proving), the genuine nostalgia that drives audiences to this type of production for an extended run requires a minimum of twenty, meaning that Take That’s turn is at least another decade off, given that Wiki claims the original break-up was in 1996. One could argue the same about Queen and We Will Rock You, but WWRY has a more original premise and Freddie Mercury’s death accelerated the growth of the nostalgia factor.