Most musicals would count themselves lucky if they received a standing ovation at the curtain call, not so for Never Forget where during the show people getting their feet, clapping along, waving cigarette lighters in the air and dancing in the aisles occurs on a regular basis. Charlotte Marshall was in the first night audience of the boy band musical.
Based on the songs of Mancunian 90s pop sensation Take That, Never Forget opens with down to earth Ash Sherwood (Dean Chisnall) proposing to long term girlfriend Chloe (Sophia Ragavelas) – cue Could It Be Magic. Unfortunately celebrations at Ash’s mum’s pub are dampened when the bailiffs turn up and threaten to close the establishment. There is nothing for it but for Ash and Chloe’s brother Jake to audition for a Take That tribute band with the chance of £10,000 if they win the fast approaching Battle Of The Tribute Bands.
Luckily they scrape through the audition and Ash, with his impressive rendition of Pray is cast as lead singer Gary Barlow, while Jake’s cocky womanising ways make him the perfect Robbie. Geeky banker Adrian Banks, suffering with a serious case of low self esteem, turns up to audition in an attempt to make his abusive wife proud of him and in a surprise move becomes the group’s Mark Owen. In Howard Donald’s place is Dirty Harry; a thick but lovable stripper determined there must be more to life than taking his clothes off. Finally Spanish Jose Reize wins the part of Jason Orange, having travelled to England to prove to his over-bearing mother he can make it in a boy band.
Unfortunately not everything runs quite as smoothly as planned and when Ash is offered a solo deal, he finds himself with the biggest dilemma of his life – faced with the prospect of his one chance for success, will he sacrifice his friends and family and turn his back on his roots? Finding himself caught up in his new exciting and decadent life, Ash leaves Chloe devastated and alone – cue melancholy love song Back For Good – and falls into the arms of temptress record-label mogul Annie Borrowman.
The show clearly takes inspiration from Take That’s concerts, featuring various elaborate dance scenes using a range of styles from salsa to breakdance with a healthy amount of cheese and Flashdance style legwarmers and head bands thrown in. Mix this with special effects such as the stage quite literally catching on fire during Relight My Fire, a waterfall of rain in which the words Never Forget light up, and costumes ranging from red patchwork combats to fur coats and numerous pairs of spandex hotpants, and you have a show that conveys the same slightly hysterical atmosphere as any respectable boy band concert. This creates a fairly unique theatrical experience as the audience feel free to cheer and wolf whistle whenever the band walk on stage and boo when the wicked manageress tries to seduce Ash, all of which may well be helped along by the Take This And Party cocktails on sale at the theatre bar.
Never Forget is a tongue in cheek, unashamedly cheesy homage to boy bands, set in a world where being in a tribute band could mean your big break. When Take That broke up, the Samaritans set up a help line for devastated fans, and from the look of some of the audience members screaming at the end of the show, exhausted from the ten minute encore, they may well have to do the same when Never Forget closes.