As the English summer settles into its brief annual pomp, so too arrives Greatest Days, the “official Take That musical”, adapted by Tim Frith from his own play and directed with a steady hand by Coky Giedroyc, and as wholesome, heady summer parties go you could do far worse. What could have been a jukebox retreade of some pop fluff here becomes a vibrant celebration of fandom’s sheer emotional transport. It’s very funny, very British, a little weird and extremely satisfying.

Aisling Bea is great as Rachel, a forty-something nurse who wins a golden ticket of sorts: a chance to see her teenage obsession, a nameless boyband, perform live in Athens. It sets in motion a reconnection with her old friends and themes, long since gone their separate ways since their time as screaming fans fantasising about life outside the seaside town of Clitheroe and living vicariously through some proper pop bangers.

The film moves confidently between two distinct time frames: 1993, their adolescent years, and the present day. The transition is handled elegantly by Giedroyc and her cast which features Alice Lowe, Jayde Adams and Amaka Okafor alongside Bea as the reunited fans. Of the grown ups it’s Adams in particular that (pardon the pun) shines in her role as Claire, injecting what could have been a one-note and easily-dismissed character with both vivacity and nuance. The adults are matched well with the cast playing their teenage selves, and it’s to the credit of both sets that all are credible as two stages of the same lives. Lara McDonnell and Aisling Bea’s performances are so close you suspect they might be clones.

At the centre of the story, though never directly part of it, are a reunited boyband referred to only as “The Boys”, a proxy for any band you care to name, though obviously modelled on ’90s Take That. They act as a sort of Greek Chorus, materialising from the ether whenever their fans need emotional succour, and leading both sets of leads into dream sequences and escapist fantasy. Their presence hammers home the enduring power of teenage adoration, forming the crux of what makes Greatest Days work so well: its understanding of fandom and the emotional hold that comes with it, and the way music can become an emotional anchor, support system and a sense memory all at once. There’s deep themes here: nostalgia, grief, friendship and fandom, but Giedroyc and Frith maintain a buoyant tone throughout, never losing its lightness of touch.

And of course there’s the music, which is probably why you’re here in the first place. Take That have spent thirty years accumulating one of the strongest song books in pop, and stacking the hits together like this it’s hard to begrudge Gary Barlow his success, tax-swerving plank that he is. The early ones, ‘Pray’, ‘Could It Be Magic’, ‘Everything Changes’, weave their well-deployed nostalgia spells while ‘Back For Good’, ‘Never Forget’, ‘Patience’ and the title track make beautifully crafted narrative milestones, well staged and performed. The ‘Shine’ sequence in particular, as the quartet prepare to board an EasyJet flight to Athens, clad in golden gowns, complete with top hats and canes, is budget Busby Berkley delight.

Comparisons with Mamma Mia are probably inevitable – both are summer treats, built around a holiday and set to a bulletproof songbook – and Greatest Days has its cake and eats it by leaning in (the choice of Athens for the big concert that kicks the plot into gear can’t be a coincidence), while making a virtue of its Britishness; replacing Greek Islands with the Lancashire coast (which looks stunning by the way) and glamorous weddings with comprehensive school drudgery, NHS chic and rowing parents. Still, like its ABBAtastic forebear, it carries the feeling of a summer outing with old friends, complete with an accompanying soundtrack that holds countless shared memories. Both speak of nostalgia, friendship and family but never drown in their own sentimentality. Like Mama Mia this is a perfect summer movie that resonates well beyond its runtime.

Ultimately, it’s a love letter to growing up, to the power of perfect pop, the joy of escape and the enduring bonds of friendship formed in fandom. Could it be magic? Yes. It really could.