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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Savoy


  Sophia Ragavales and Dean Chisnall/Tristram Kenton

Some shows display an immunity to reviews that can madden those of us toiling in the critical trenches: You mean it really makes no difference what we write about, say, Dirty Dancing or Starlight Express? Other productions abound whose complete remove from critical discourse is simply there to be noted, in much the way that Starbucks is now ubiquitous even if their coffee (to my view) is hardly the best. So it is that I bow before the brainless if ultimately rather endearing knees-up that is Never Forget, the latest London jukebox musical if (to my knowledge) also the first to feature a much-vaunted wall of fire and - more impressive, at least on press night - a rain curtain that spells out the title, among other words. If you don't know the 1990s boyband phenomenon that was (and also is, following their recent return to the touring circuit, minus shooting star Robbie Williams) Take That, you may not be able to join in the orgasmic squeals of the girls behind me, who drowned out significant numbers of lines. On the other hand, given that the dialogue runs towards fortune-cookie assertions to the effect that life is not a popularity contest - and cues to the audience to go wild when the show's sole Spanish character remarks, we show them our cojones - it may not matter if you don't catch every apercu.

Never Forget doesn't concern its determinedly audience-friendly self with taxing a public that is there to sing along to Relight My Fire, A Million Love Songs, and other defining Take That titles before rising for the inevitable megamix-prompted boogie. That the cast are personable and (some of them, anyway) prepared to take off a few outer garments is all that really matters, alongside a committed canter through the Take That back catalogue, which director Ed Curtis's likable company deliver without a trace of cynicism.

Indeed, whereas the likes of Dirty Dancing seemed stitched together by rote, Never Forget at least seems possessed of much the same brio that propelled Take That to the top of the charts in an age before such youth-led phenomena were cropping up regularly at every UK club and disco, gay or straight. And though the narrative may make Mamma Mia! seem like Sunday In the Park With George, it thankfully forsakes coyness in its chronicle of the moral dilemmas that beset a wannabe Take That tribute band fronted by Gary Barlow equivalent, Ash (Dean Chisnall), a blonde crooner who learns a few life lessons along the way to adoration from a femme-heavy Savoy public. (The actual band's much remarked upon gay following seemed fairly significantly outnumbered at the press performance.) As the script from Curtis, Guy Jones, and Danny Brocklehurst would have it, the newly engaged Ash fights to do right by his financially strapped mum (Marilyn Cutts, late of Fascinating Aida) and his devoted fiancee, Chloe (Sophia Ragavelas, in powerful voice), as he leads a motley crew of Manchester lads up the ethically fraught ladder toward success. Desperate to make something of himself for what would seem to be the first time, Ash falls headlong into the perilous clinch with Annie (Joanne Farrell), a blonde vixen and talent scout who gets pantomime-style boos and jeers at the curtain call. (Whipping her hair about, Farrell takes the opprobrium in her stride.) His apparent willingness to be swayed doesn't sit well with longstanding best chum and fellow band member, Jake (Craige Els), though problems with the ladies hardly belong to Ash alone. We soon learn that the geeky Adrian (Tim Driesen) has a wife who's cheating on him, while the resident hola!-speaker Jose (Stephane Anelli, wringing diminishing laughs from


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