Christmas arrived early in Birmingham last night as Nativity the Musical, based on the hit British film, took to the stage to bring the beautiful story to life with charm, humour and bundles of fun.
Writer and Director of the hilariously brilliant films, Debbie Isitt has adapted the story to the stage superbly. It’s a feel-good family production about heartbroken teacher Mr Maddens who is attempting to put on a musical version of the traditional nativity play with the help of his crazy and childish teaching assistant Mr Poppy. With a strong rivalry against the private school Oakmoor who consistently receive rave reviews for their innovative nativity, Mr Maddens ensures they put on a nativity like no other.
Opening with tap dancing reindeers, singing elves and an incredible amount of glitter, I knew from the second the curtain went up that this was going to be a show to remember. The stage is designed simply yet lavishly as it is doused from head to toe in glitter. With 18 small children, one much bigger child and an adorable puppy, Nativity has all the ingredients for a marvelous musical.
Daniel Boys takes on the role of Mr Maddens, a kind and charming teacher that is feeling down after his long-term girlfriend left him at Christmas to pursue her dream to be a Hollywood producer. Boys’ depiction of the primary school teacher is excellent, he has mastered the tone of the character and it’s delightful to watch his personality develop.
Softening Mr Maddens down, Simon Lipkin is exceptional as the bubbly and vibrant teaching assistand Mr Poppy. Ultimately, Mr Poppy is a big kid with a big heart, and his enthusiasm and passion are incredibly sweet to watch. Lipkin is a comedy genius and he absolutely steals the show with his naturally effortless humour. His relationship with Mr Maddens is genius, as their dialogue is fresh and witty and their growing friendship is delightful to watch grow.
All the characters are fused with vivacious energy, whether it’s the dominatingly fierce headteacher of Oakmoor school Mr Shakespeare played by Andy Brady, the firm headmistress of St Bernadette’s Mrs Bevan portrayed by Jemma Churchill, or the wonderfully camp and extravagant local reviewer Patrick Burns played by Jamie Chapman.
However, of course, it is the remarkable kids that make the show as special as it is. Casting normal local school kids as opposed to stage school kids brings a real authenticity to the production. Their confidence and stage presence are outstanding but what makes you warm to them the most is that they are real kids, and so when they’re auditioning, rehearsing or performing the final nativity, they are so truthful in their roles that you really find yourself connecting to them. After going on the journey of the story with them through the show, I found myself feeling like a proud parent at the end as they performed their epic musical production of the traditional nativity.
Nativity the Musical is an infectious production and one of the most joyous, touching and uplifting evenings at the theatre I’ve ever had. It managed to strike the perfect balance between being slick and impressive but feeling really genuine and natural.
Bursting with sparkle and oozing with shine, Nativity is everything that theatre should be and more. Both a heartwarmer and tearjerker, it’s the perfect Christmas show.
On at the Birmingham Rep until the 12th of November before continuing on tour around the UK, you do NOT want to miss it. Tickets and information can be found here.