|Never Forget's Anelli, Dreisen, Els, Chisnall & James|
Second Take: Never Forget
Date: 26 May 2008
First came Take That, now there’s Never Forget, the new musical about the unlikeliest of Take That tribute bands. Everybody knows Take That’s Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Jason Orange, Howard Donald and Robbie Williams, but who are new boys Ash, Jose, Jake, Harry and Adrian? Get up to speed with our Take Thatter’s guide to the boys behind the boys in the band.
DEAN CHISNALL on ‘Ash Sherwood’
In Never Forget, Ash is the leader of the pack, like Gary Barlow was – and still is – with the Take That guys. Ash is the one with a love of music who desperately wants a pop career, so he’s the ideal Gary in the Take That tribute band.
What does Ash “Pray” for most in the show? Money. He wants the Gary’s success and to live his dream in the tribute band because his mum’s pub is facing closure.
How does the real Gary Barlow “Shine” in your opinion? Gary has the writer of the Take That hits. He’s simply a genius.
Did audiences on the pre-West End tour of Never Forget go for the tunes or the story? Originally we thought we’d only have people singing along, but everywhere we went audiences got caught up in the plot. It’s got heart, it’s funny and it’s interactive. The baddie who tries to take Ash away from the group get heavily booed every night. It’s a foolproof feelgood show. Everyone seems to love it.
The real Take That eventually split. Do you five guys ever argue? In the show Ash causes problems for the others by going off and doing his own thing. Off-stage we all have completely different personalities, yet we’ve all got on so well over the past year. Sounds corny, but it’s true.
Did Gary send any spies? I don’t know, but I did meet Jason’s dad who said he would tell the lads to come along. Nigel Martin-Smith, their former manager, came and he’s even endorsed Never Forget on the DVD. They know we’re not trying to be Take That. We’re celebrating what they achieved.
Have you experienced fan hysteria like the real Take That? Oh yes. In Glasgow I got frogmarched on to a coach by load of fans. They were actually calling me Gary instead of my own name. Amazing. I didn’t get that when I was in the West End in the Evita!
STEPHANE ANELLI on ‘Jose Reize’
Jose is a comic character who arrives in Manchester from Seville to find fame and fortune, and to escape from his overwhelming mother. Despite his broken English he passes the dance audition as Jason Orange in the tribute band, having been an under-12 Flamenco champion. Jose doesn’t try to be funny: he just says crazy things without realising.
How does Jose compare with the real Jason? There are certain things that die-hard fans will recognise, like the Spanish connection – Jason once lived in Ibiza. He was almost as good a dancer as Howard in Take That and Jose comes from a dance background, so there’s a link there too.
What are the demands on you in terms of dance? Jose isn’t supposed to be an excellent dancer. It’s very much on a comedic level because he thinks he’s a lot better than he really is, partly because his mum keeps telling him he’s brilliant.
Were you ever a Take Thatter? I was the wrong age. I came from a show iz background – my mother was an ice skater my father is a musical director. As a kid I used to love the sheer theatricality and showmanship of the Take That Christmas concerts. Maybe that’s why the songs lend themselves to musical theatre.
Which songs in the show relight your fire? I loved “Pray” long before I started in the show. “Back for Good” is great because it absolutely pours with rain on stage. “Take That and Party” is fantastic fun. It’s us lads dancing against our backing dancers – they are brilliant and we are terrible!
If Jason dropped out of Take That, would you audition? No. I don’t think I’d have the guts to be a pop star. Anyway, Jason’s tall and I’m far too short.
CRAIGE ELS on ‘Jake Turner’
Jake’s the flamboyant cheeky chappie of the group who likes to call himself Jake ‘The Face’ Turner. When the tribute band comes along he’s destined to take on the role of Robbie Williams. How close are you to Jake? It’s great fun playing a Jack the Lad character. A lot of my friends say I’m just playing myself. Ah well, so much for my in-depth character study! But let’s be honest. Robbie’s a lot cooler than me.
Did you “Pray” beforehand when Never Forget played Stoke-on-Trent, Robbie’s home town? You bet. It was scary. I worried about the fans expecting a Robbie impersonation, but when the tribute ban manager in the show asks where Jake comes from and I said “Stoke” there was an almighty roar of approval. Robbie’s mum was there and said she loved it, although I didn’t get to meet her myself.
Robbie was just 17 when he joined Take That. What were you doing at that age? Taking my A-Levels in Liverpool and thinking about university, which is where I did drama and started acting. Take That only entered my radar when they became mainstream. As a kid I was into Motown, because my mum was such a big fan.
In your own career, what’s the role you’ll “Never Forget”? Understudying Tim Curry as King Arthur in Spamalot. Tim was ill one night and I suddenly had to go on and I remember standing in the wings and shaking inside the chain mail. Once I was on it was okay, but I’ll never ever forget experiencing fear, joy and amazing adrenaline rushes all at the same time.
EATON JAMES on ‘Dirty Harry’
Dirty Harry is the misfit with a head full of sawdust who does a bit of stripping and becomes Howard Donald in the tribute band.
What’s it like stripping in public? I’m only on stage for about three minutes when I’m down to my underpants! But I don’t think about it. One of the first shows I was in was When Pigs Fly at the Arts Theatre where I had to go on wearing nothing but a little fig leaf, so I’ve had plenty of practice.
How similar is Harry to Howard? I’m sure he’s not an airhead like Harry. I guess the only similarity is that they are both exhibitionists. Howard was a brilliant break-dancer and was always getting down to a little thong or hotpants. This is the guy who once dressed up in drag and wore chaps with his bum sticking out.
Didn’t you once appear on stage in drag? That was when I played Miss Bible Belt in Pageant at the King’s Head and then the Vaudeville Theatre. I’ll never forget it because it was my first lead role in the West End and it was such fun to work with Lionel Blair.
On tour was the audience just former Take Thatters? We did get a lot of them dragging their husbands along who didn’t think they were going to enjoy it, but they invariably ended up clapping along with the rest. It was daunting in Manchester, the home of Take That, but the fans were with us from the get-go.
You were once in a real boyband? Ten years ago, it was called Flava. We learned one song and Avenue records were planning a video shoot but it fizzled out. It was frustrating because I had a musical theatre voice and they kept telling me to sing less.
Any Take That albums on your iPod? When I got the job I was listening to all of their songs all of the time. Now I don’t play any because I’m singing them every single night.
TIM DREISEN on ‘Adrian Banks’
Adrian is a banker – like Mark Owen was – and he’s a bit geeky with an adulterous wife who he tries to get on board again by impressing her in the tribute band. He has lots of hurdles to overcome, including some hideous wardrobe malfunctions.
Is Adrian the lovable one, like Mark? Absolutely. He’s the adorable nice boy who gives the show its “aaah” factor.
When does shy Adrian begin to “Shine” in the show? Near the end of act two when his confidence has grown. By the time we do “Relight My Fire” he’s at his peak.
Mark was 16 when he joined Take That. What were you doing at that age?
When I was 14, I was in a band in Belgium, where I come from, called the Bubbles, a kind of S Club 7. We headlined a TV show and even got to number five in the Belgian charts. After the Bubbles, I played the narrator in a Belgian touring musical Glory Hallelujah 2000 for 18 months. The performances were weekends only, so I could finish my studies whilst doing the weekend job.
As a songwriter yourself, what do you most admire about Take That as musicians? Gary Barlow is one of the best songwriters in the country. He’s getting better all the time. “Shine” is my absolute favourite, even though it’s been out for over a year. It’s a song that always puts a smile on your face.
If you were able to join a tribute band, what would it be? I really do admire an American new wave country pop band called Rascal Flatts. You’d have a hard job trying to emulate their stuff though.
Is Never Forget a jukebox musical? It could be seen as that but we say it’s a story with heart. Danny Brocklehurst and Guy Jones’ script is not just about filling in until the next song, it’s about friendship and betrayal and the audience feeling for the characters. It’s a full-on musical, not just a Take That compilation.
Following a regional tour, Never Forget opened on 22 May 2008 (previews from 7 May) at the West End’s Savoy Theatre, where it’s currently booking until 25 October 2008. A longer version of this article appears in the May issue of What’s On Stage magazine (formerly Theatregoer), which is out now in participating theatres. Click here to thumb through our online edition. And to guarantee your copy of future print editions - and also get all the benefits of our Theatregoers’ Club - click here to subscribe now!!