This is the Christmas cracker we’ve all been waiting for – hurry up and grab those tickets to Nativity the Musical!
Nativity the musical shows us all how it’s done when it comes to Christmas entertainment. It’s hard to imagine a time when I was so thoroughly entertained. And I wasn’t alone. The entire audience was transfixed from start to finish – booing in all the right places and laughing out loud for most of the rest. I’m not ashamed to say that it even bought a tear to my eye during the more heartfelt and poignant parts to the story.
Nativity the Musical! is set in fictional St Bernadette’s School as teacher (and ex theatre school drop out) Mr Maddens and his pupils try to save the school and outdo rival Oakmoor School in the process by putting together a 5-star musical Nativity performance with the help of crazy teaching assistant Mr Poppy. Trouble is they let it slip that ‘Hollywood’ are coming to see the show when in reality things are not quite so glamorous…
Originally written for the big screen (Nativity! 2009) by Debbie Isitt, and starring Martin Freeman, Marc Wootton, Alan Carr and Ricky Tomlinson, and re-released in 2018 as Nativity Rocks! with a different cast, Isitt went on to adapt it for the stage with music and lyrics by Nicky Ager and Debbie Isitt and choreography by Andrew Wright, and I think it’s even better – and judging by the comments from people as they left the Regent last night, I know i’m not the only one who thought that.
The story first hit the stage as a musical in London in 2017 and went on to enjoy a triumphant UK tour; thankfully it’s back for 2018 and making its way around the UK before heading back to London for a Christmas finale. But it’s only on in Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday so I urge you to go and get some tickets quickly before it sells out.
Produced by Jamie Wilson, who at just 30, has produced over 50 productions, Ramin Sabi, Entertainment One, Birmingham Reperatory Theatre and The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and designed by David Woodhead, with lighting design by Tim Mitchell, sound design by Tom Marshall and musical supervision and orchestrations by George Dyer, this show just gets it right everywhere.
Staging is quirky, vibrant, colourful but not too much. There is clever comedy, bright and bold showcases to catchy songs you’ll remember from the films, including Sparkle and Shine, Nazareth, One Night One Moment, She’s the Brightest Star, a mega story line and absolutely buckets of talent.
Returning to play Mr Poppy, the ultimate big kid, on stage is Simon Lipkin (also starring in the 2018 film remake Nativity Rocks!) who just oozes charisma. He is so at home on the stage whether that’s playing the keyboard or guitar or rolling off the one-liners, and I left wondering how he could be anything other that the annoyingly lovable Mr Poppy in real life.
The coveted role of the mean ‘Hollywood Producer’ is played by Emmerdale favourite Adam Thomas for the Stoke stint of the show, who did well in his stage debut performance. And Scott Garnham is the perfect anxious and stressed-out Mr Maddens too, but the real shout-outs have to go to the incredible young talent the producers have thrust into the spotlight.
The adult company are joined by the following children aged 9 – 12 from across the Midlands as the pupils of ‘St Bernadette’s School’; Ami Bakayoko , Evie Bennell-Low, Niamh Brady, Demi Delord, Joseph Duffy, Tommy Gallagher, Alexander Hogg, Kheiri Isaac-Osmani, Betsy Jiggins, Ben Lee, Marlie Olivia Love, Harry Martin, Joshua Millard-Lloyd, Jasmine McKenna, Amy-Louise Mulhall, Celie Newman, Gerald Ngwenya, Lyla Peters, Katelyn-Janet Rollason, Aston Sidwell, Nicholas Vakis and Angeli Yunesse Sagala.
And following hugely successful open auditions, Eloise Petts (11), Wilfred Urwin (10), Sadie Bhageerutty (11) and Lyla Toplass (11) from Staffordshire, and Lola Johnstone (9), Oscar Heath (9) and Fraser Campbell (11) from Stoke-on-Trent will also be among the children playing students of Oakmoor School.
To think that children as young nine can get up in front of a packed out auditorium and sing and dance so well, let alone pull off a hilarious and inspiring performance is astonishing and it made me think about enrolling my own kids into stage school. Such confidence and talent is truly lovely to see and an absolute pleasure to watch.
There have been some odd additions to school nativity plays over the years but this is the only only one where you’ll see ‘five’ wise men as a rapping boyband, a total diva star of wonder and the Angel Gabriel doing a death slide – oh and a kiss-impersonating King Herod.
There really couldn’t be a better time to go either, as mums and dads are no doubt busily preparing their children for school plays across the county, the countdown to Christmas is well and truly on and festive fever is reaching boiling point.
Being completely immersed in this clever, feel-good, hilarious show is just what every one needs at this time of year, and if you weren’t feeling festive before you go, I guarantee you’ll be doused in sparkle, eating trays of mince pies and walking round with mistletoe hanging from your Christmas jumper afterwards.
Nativity! the Musical is only on at The Regent, Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday 8th December 2018. Tickets are available from The Regent Theatre Box Office, or by calling 0844 871 7649.