Take That – Greatest Hits LIVE

Writer Kate Goerner

Regular readers of Opening Night will know that we’re pretty big fans of The Band, the musical based around the songs of Take That.

Combining a moving coming-of-age story of acceptance and loving yourself with the many hits of Gary, Robbie, Howard, Mark and Jason was a recipe for theatre magic in our (often tear-filled) eyes.

But disclaimer, we were fans of the group itself first – so as such here at Opening Night we were looking forward to going back to The Band’s roots thanks to Take That’s current Greatest Hits 2019 tour. Always theatrical, always dramatic – what would the group have in store this time?

The tour, which is in Manchester all this week, followed their recent album Odyssey – itself a tribute to those hits, reimagined.

Looming over proceedings is a giant orb, recreated from the from the Odyssey album cover, in spectacular fashion. Part stage, part projections, it really is a spectacular backdrop to the show.

And what a show! It’s as nostalgic as you’d expect – but with dazzling hi-tech staging that means the material and performances never feel old hat.

In fact it feels like the freshest tour in a while – while being a genuine love letter to a 30 year career.

There’s a feeling of the passing of the decades that’s reflected throughout the evening in the staging – from the Seventies-style Evel Knievel jumpsuits the lads wear to open the show (to the uplifting Greatest Day) to the monochrome Sixties section, the Eighties hair metal motorcycle tribute and a nice nod to the Nineties.

The hits are all there – with some real ‘lump in the throat’ moments on the big screen like a video of Robbie performing Everything Changes, or the Bee Gees in How Deep is Your Love.

We even got Mark singing Babe, a beautifully stripped back version of Pray with sign language (although we did miss the Pray dance!) and Lulu – YES LULU – joining Gary, Mark and Howard for Relight My Fire.

The evening ended in magical fashion with Rule The World complete with fireworks.

So while Opening Night hopes to see The Band hit our stages again some day, Take That prove that the original is usually the best!

Further tour information can be found here.

Interview | Nathan Lewis | Motown The Musical

Nathan Lewis Headshot

X Factor finalist Nathan Lewis heads to Manchester next week as part of the sensational Motown the Musical. Playing the legendary Smokey Robinson, Lewis is amongst a talented cast who bring the legends of Motown to glittering life in a musical adaptation which uncovers the true story of the legendary record label that changed music history and created the soundtrack of a generation.

We caught up with Nathan to hear a little more about the show and how it feels to be making his theatrical debut in such a thrilling role.

For your first musical production this must be an absolute dream role?

Absolutely 100%, it’s the first time I’ve done any kind of theatre production before so it really is a dream come true. Beforehand I was so so nervous even just about auditioning for the role let alone playing it and Smokey Robinson was such an important part of the Motown story that it really is an honour.

How did you feel ahead of your 1st performance in front of an audience?

It was very, very nerve-wracking but at the same time we have such a great team here, an amazing cast, fantastic creatives, director, sound, wigs, costume, everyone is just so encouraging that while of course I was nervous the support I had from this great team really helped prepare me and helped me to feel comfortable and ready to take it on. Part nerves, part excitement!

13. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL. Nathan Lewis 'Smokey Robinson'. Photo Tristram Kenton

Do it add pressure playing a real person?

I think it definitely does, you have to be very careful not to make any of the characters too different from their real selves; it’s so important they don’t become caricatures. With it being based on real people and real events you do have to reflect that but it’s a lot of fun because their stories and lives are so real and so interesting.

It’s such a fast paced show including 50 Motown classics how do you look after yourself and stay well?

I’ve recently just got over having a little bug and I think what helps with recovery and getting back performing is just really knowing your body, some people can bang out eight shows a week no problem, others have to be really careful. For me things like honey, ginger, lemon, hot water, the occasional steam and even long hot showers all help in looking after my voice. Also and this may sound stupid but knowing when to shut up, when you have time off it’s best to use it as well as you can and to rest your voice, just chill out and relax.

How do you prepare for each performance?

I just try to get myself feeling nice and relaxed really, I might listen to some music, drink some hot water, ginger and honey, occasionally might go over my lines. I find feeling relaxed helps me to feel confident and ready to perform.

Which Motown artists dead or alive would you love to meet or even sing with?

Oh my God that’s such a tough question, I’d definitely love to meet Smokey, to sing with him would be amazing and also he’s such an incredible song writer. It would be incredible to not only see him perform but also to pick his brain as well and find out a little more about him and how he did things. Michael Jackson would absolutely be one of them, he’s one of the biggest stars there’s ever been, meeting him would be amazing, and I’m definitely gonna put Stevie Wonder on the list as well, 100%.

You’re with us in Manchester from 26th Feb until 23rd March have you made any plans while you’re here?

I’ve only been once or twice before so I’m looking forward to doing some sightseeing, when you get to stay at a venue for a longer time it’s great as you get the chance to get comfortable in the place you’re at, it can be quite jarring when you’re just doing a week somewhere then onto the next place so a longer spell is really lovely and an opportunity to discover somewhere new.

The show has been a huge hit on the West End and now the tour is taking audiences by storm, what makes it such a fan favourite?

I’d have to say the music, it’s got to be the music, it is so iconic. For me having never done a theatre production before being lucky enough to get Motown as my first has been amazing I can totally see why audiences love it so much. The music in it is all my favourite kinds of music, its high energy, great storytelling about real people. To say the music of Motown shaped the world is an understatement, the music and the creative way in which its delivered is what makes it so popular.

You can see for yourself why Motown The Musical continues to thrill audiences when it arrives at Manchester’s Opera House on Tuesday 26th February tickets available here.