The stage production of Greatest Days, a jukebox musical built around the music of Take That, originally premiered at the Manchester Opera House in 2017 under the name The Band. It later transferred to London’s West End in 2018 and now, to the silver screen with a new name and a starry cast of British talent.
The narrative follows Rachel (Aisling Bea) who wins tickets to see her favourite band live in concert. She reunites with her childhood best friends, Heather, Zoe and Claire for a trip of a lifetime, but it’s a bittersweet reunion and the women have all changed drastically in the 25 years they have spent apart.
Greatest Days unfolds in two timelines; the adult friends travelling to Athens for the concert and their teenage selves attending another concert, just much closer to home. The film is littered with inspired, wacky musical numbers set to classic Take That bangers.
Directed by Coky Giedroyc, Greatest Days is simply charming. Giedroyc previously directed How To Build A Girl, a coming-of-age film starring Beanie Feldstein, and Greatest Days works as a wonderful companion piece to that. Both films have such an intimate understanding of what it means to be a teenage girl; Giedroyc explores the trials and tribulations of budding womanhood with care and humour, but never at the expense of her characters.
While Greatest Days doesn’t exactly break any new ground, it investigates its theme thoroughly. Tim Firth’s script withholds a specific detail about the girls’ past, but it’s not too difficult to guess exactly what happened. This makes Greatest Days feel slightly awkward and this specific plot grievance becomes the elephant in the room.
Aisling Bea is an endearing presence. She is supported by fantastic turns by Alice Lowe, Amaka Okafor and Jayde Adams. It’s tricky to convince your audience that these people once knew each other and are now only shadows of their teenage selves, but can still fall into that old, easy dynamic.
The adult performers are very nearly, and in some scenes completely, upstaged by their teenage counterparts. Jessie Mae Alonzo is particularly mesmerising and Lara McDonnell as young Rachel is the spitting image of Bea.
The musical numbers come often and for any Take That fans, Greatest Days is a sure treat. The numbers are impressively staged and a slightly more risqué number, which takes place on a bus, is a highlight. A later, quieter rendition of ‘Patience’ is also potent in how it manages to communicate years of pain and longing.
The biggest issue in the film is Mark Wootton who plays Rachel’s fiance Jeff. Jeff is a bit of an arse, with very little understanding for Rachel’s needs. Every time the film focuses on Rachel and Jeff’s relationship, the entire narrative just comes to a standstill and struggles to get its groove back.
Ultimately, Greatest Days is surprisingly brilliant and disarmingly honest. It manages to say something meaningful about friendships, growing up and grief without ever forgetting to smile through the pain. You might find you have something in your eye during the last 20 minutes, but you don’t need to be a Take That fanatic to enjoy this joyous musical.
Greatest Days is in cinemas 16 June.