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Never Forget Reviews

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Never Forget Reviews#1
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:03am
The Stage - Mixed

To describe a musical based around the songs of pop group Take That as too cheesy would be missing the point somewhat, akin to describing Sweeney Todd as overly gruesome or Joseph as too multicoloured. This is a show that revels in the tackiness and excess of early nineties pop, completely aware that it will be delighting its target audience as it does so.

What comes as a surprise is the quality of the script. Written by theatre and TV script writer Danny Brocklehurst with director Ed Curtis and Guy Jones, for the most part the story of five lads who group together to form a Take That tribute band is played for laughs. Jokes come thick and fast in the first act, with moments of slapstick and absurdity played at just the right level to prevent the whole enterprise from descending into a panto-style knockabout.

Unfortunately, the more dramatic thread - the pressures on lead singer Ash, played by Dean Chisnall, to leave the band and take up with record company scout Annie (Joanne Farrell), to the wrath of fiancee Chloe - is handled less well, achieving levels of sub-Hollyoaks melodrama that Brocklehurst avoids in his own TV work. It doesn’t help that Chisnall is the least charismatic of the five group members. Every time he is on stage alone, one yearns for his four bandmates to return to bring some life back into proceedings. Farrell is hopelessly out of her depth as an underwritten femme fatale. Audience members were content to welcome every onstage appearance with panto-level boos and hisses, but it’s an appreciation that neither the character nor the performance deserves.

Vocally, the star of the show is Sophia Ragavelas as Chloe, the classic wronged woman. Her gut-wrenching performance of Love Ain’t Here Anymore is the standout moment of the show, with a delivery so powerful it stunned the raucous audience of Take That fans into complete silence for possibly the only time in the entire show.

There are also some superb performances from the large company of dancers. While the accompaniment to many staged Take That numbers is as reminiscent of eighties TV light entertainment spectaculars as it is the excess of the original group’s own stage shows, a number of sequences, tightly choreographed by Karen Bruce, show their abilities off to full effect. Most notable is a sequence set in a Manchester salsa bar, which clearly references similar sequences in better musicals, including the Mambo from West Wide Story. It’s an audacious move and one which the production just about manages to pull off.

Ultimately, the audience for this show is always going to be dominated by fans of Take That’s original music catalogue, but there’s enough substance in here for others to enjoy too. This is a musical that knows exactly what it is, makes no apologies, and goes out with a great big smile on its face. It may be camp nonsense, but it’s self-aware - there’s full knowledge that the rain machine at the end of the first act will get the biggest applause of the evening, and everyone is perfectly happy to play along.
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re: Never Forget Reviews#2
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:05am
# Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com (four stars)

– “I’m not a big Take That fan particularly as I’ve recently grown out of my prepubescent schoolgirl period … This irresistible show does, however, make a good case for the talents of the writer/lyricist Gary Barlow by creating a decent dramatic structure – in a script by Danny Brocklehurst, Guy Jones and director Ed Curtis - that may not have the wit or ingenuity of Mamma Mia! but does use the concert format, and some stunning stage effects, to tell a good story … Curtis’ production arrives at the Savoy with a brash confidence and unassailable technical perfection born of a long nationwide tour. Karen Bruce’s choreography pulsates with dance floor discipline, and Bob Bailey’s design and James Whiteside’s lighting create a superb concert atmosphere with a stage-wide wall of fire and an incredible first act finale curtain of rain – as in the ‘Never Forget’ video – with the show’s title picked out in giant letters. How did they do that?”
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re: Never Forget Reviews#2
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:05am
# Lyn Gardner in the Guardian (two stars) –

“Yes, the book feels as if it is being stretched to shoehorn in the next ballad, and the tone is uncertain, falling between cheese and camp. But there are flashes of droll humour, the actors are engaging and there is a lively vulgarity. And what's not to like about the first-half closing number that features rain so intelligent it can actually spell out the words Never Forget in mid-air? But after the interval, it is clear that nobody got round to writing the second half, so they just throw everything at it. We have already had snow and the clever rain, and now we get pyrotechnics, pole-dancing and more bling than at a Russian oligarch's wedding. Then they chuck on 20 cute kids dressed as angels. It is a pity, because with more care and craft and a greater feelgood factor this might have rivalled Mamma Mia!. Instead, it merely offers an alternative for hen parties who forgot to book Dirty Dancing in time.”
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re: Never Forget Reviews#3
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:06am
Esther Walker in the Independent -

“Rumour has it that the real Barlow was at first involved with the show, but dropped it when Take That reformed in 2006. He suddenly had better things to do. More fool him, then, because the show is good. It's fast-paced and lively, funny and easy on the eye, and the songs have been lovingly and faithfully adapted to the stage. This is all despite the show recycling the same dunce plot you always get in stories about bands. Band forms. Label is interested – but only in lead singer. Band falls out. Band gets together just in time to win battle of the bands. The end … The boys playing the fake Take That are charming, with strong voices. They do well with a script that, although at times a bit clunky, at least has a decent sense of humour … The staging and choreography are something to see, with more flesh on display than a butcher's window.”
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re: Never Forget Reviews#4
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:07am
Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard -

“If it's kitsch spectacular you're after, don't even think of the Eurovision Song Contest. This new musical, based around the songs of Take That, will knock forthcoming events in Belgrade into a gold thong. Never before have I seen a show where the whooping standing ovation started midway through the second half. The storyline could have been concocted on the back of a particularly small envelope … But the point here isn't plot subtlety. Instead, Ed Curtis' production is a riot of fake tans, outrageous costumes and the highest-octane choreography the West End has seen in years. Those dancers will have no knees left by Tuesday … The set appears to be lovingly recycled from the Crossroads motel, with the addition of a couple of spectacular special effects … If enough hen parties have seen Dirty Dancing by now, this will surely run for ever.”
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re: Never Forget Reviews#5
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:07am
Dominic Maxwell in the The Times (two stars)

– “The new Take That musical is a cheerfully bogus but sometimes spectacular exercise in asset-stripping … Never Forget broke box-office records on its regional tour last year. But, while it's played at a zip and sung with a smile, it's terrible old cobblers and it knows it. What's more, it knows we know it, and strongly suspects that we don't mind … The songs slip in without the clunk of some catalogue shows, but, really, why even bother? There's no dramatic darkness to give the tunes more heft when they arrive; the attempts at comedy are affable but blunt … When the songs are delivered, full on, they're pretty good … The staging is lively, the choreography does the job, and there's a rainy Back for Good sequence that replicates the song's video - cue the biggest whoops of the night. And then Ed Curtis, the director, gives us a genuinely spectacular stunt with falling rain, and for a moment we are all taken out of ourselves. The best and most honest moment is the megamix encore. With all of the 30-strong cast facing forwards, selling these electrodisco tunes with everything they've got, this ersatz spectacular comes alive.”
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re: Never Forget Reviews#6
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:08am
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail

Kitchfest … is surely the word for Never Forget. This musical tribute show based on the songs of the 1990s boy band Take That is stupendously corny. Cheesy as an emmental fondue. The dramatic tension is non-existent. The music is borrowed. The tone is unrelenting … However, it all has the redeeming quality of self-mockery. It knows it’s ridiculous. It doesn’t expect anyone to take it seriously. This save the show and ensures that, for those who are prepared to lie back and let it happ’n Cap’n, the experience is a blast. A loud one at that … Art, this is not. But harmless good fun, especially for hen parties? You betcha.”
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re: Never Forget Reviews#7
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:09am
Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph -

“The new Take That musical isn't nearly as terrible as I secretly hoped it would be. Indeed, despite all my best intentions, there were moments when I realised with a rush of shame that I was both smiling and tapping my foot. As for the four women sitting behind me, they were in seventh heaven, maintaining a continual repertoire of penetrating high-pitched shrieks of pleasure that suggested the abandoned heights of sexual ecstasy. Indeed, by the end of this rapturously received show, which is clearly destined to do a lucrative trade with raucous, c****nay-fuelled hen parties, there can hardly have been a dry seat left in the house. No wonder everyone was up on their feet for the climactic megamix of hits … Never Forget has a vulgar vitality that strikes me as miles more engaging that the bland tastefulness of the week's other major musical opening, Marguerite, and though my grandmother would have described it as "terribly common, darling", at least it beats with a recognisably human heart … Ed Curtis' brash, pacy production is blessed with a succession of highly energetic, enjoyably erotic dance routines expertly choreographed by Karen Bruce, and there are some of the best fire and rain special effects I have ever seen in a theatre … For women of a certain age, I suspect this unashamedly lowbrow show will be just the ticket. Chavtastic!”
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re: Never Forget Reviews#8
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:23am
Most of the reviews have it spot on, it's a show that will appeal to hen parties and Take That fans but no one else. I question how long it can last given that unlike Abba and Queen, Take That were only really popular in UK and Ireland and also Take That still tour which could wipe out its target audience.

How long can we see it lasting? I'd say at least a year.
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re: Never Forget Reviews#9
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:24am
i wish it would last a week
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re: Never Forget Reviews#10
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:28am
Thanks SADM2. x

This is is gonna be round awhile me thinks!
It will do great business as a new show and a summer draw, then everyone will be seeing it for Christmas parties, kids presents etc etc. Yea, i say 2 years!
A young actress with Noel coward after a dreadful opening night performance said to him 'Well, i knew my lines backwards this morning!'' Noels fast reply was ''Yes dear, and thats exactly how you said them tonight'!'
Updated On: 5/23/08 at 10:28 AM
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re: Never Forget Reviews#11
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:33am
Hmmm, I'm not so sure myself. Think this would do great business in the regions as it appeals to the Footloose/Fame audience but West End? Maybe Not.

Can see this being a TKTS favourite for on the day tourists and the great unwashed, don't think anyone in their right mind would pay top price to see it.
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re: Never Forget Reviews#12
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:37am
Remember that Fame ran for years in London
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re: Never Forget Reviews#13
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:46am
I saw this on the press night and thought much the same - it's stupid, you know it's stupid, but you end up having fun in spite of yourself. I'd never consider paying full price to see this, but it's enjoyable at concession rates.

Now to work out where to see Eurovision tomorrow...suggestions?
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re: Never Forget Reviews#14
Posted: 5/23/08 at 10:53am
As someone who has seen Footloose and Fame and enjoyed it, I have a feeling that I will end up seeing Never Forget if they came up on LastMinute or TKTS but I more woried about the chavtastic audience of grossly overweight thirtysomething women than what's on the stage.

I'm not a fan of jukebox musicals (though I have seen them) but I admit I would love to see a Duran Duran musical!
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re: Never Forget Reviews#15
Posted: 5/23/08 at 11:04am
Just get the DVD and go see another show instead. The DVD for what it is is well filmed.
A young actress with Noel coward after a dreadful opening night performance said to him 'Well, i knew my lines backwards this morning!'' Noels fast reply was ''Yes dear, and thats exactly how you said them tonight'!'
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re: Never Forget Reviews#16
Posted: 5/23/08 at 11:37am
I think Charles Spencer summed it up well for all the press.

“The new Take That musical isn't nearly as terrible as I secretly hoped it would be. Indeed, despite all my best intentions, there were moments when I realised with a rush of shame that I was both smiling and tapping my foot.

Funny thing that I expected this to get panned panned panned, it didn't though, the musicals you expect to get gutter treatment don't, good example of this is Jerry Springer the Musical, jesus even Ben Brantley of the New York Times loved it!
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re: Never Forget Reviews#17
Posted: 5/23/08 at 5:57pm
@ Jonwo: "Take That were only really popular in UK and Ireland"

They were popular (and still are) in the rest of Europe as well - they played huge arenas in e.g. Scandinavia and Germany back in the 90s (yes I have to confess I was a Take That fan when a teen in the 90s though I have no intention to see the show) and last year.
I have several friends in Denmark and Sweden who have booked already at least three trips to London to see this show.
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re: Never Forget Reviews#18
Posted: 5/24/08 at 3:20pm
February/ March 2009, I'd say.