Nativity! The Musical on tour

(5 / 5)

Nativity! The Musical- the birth of a Christmas tradition 

See my YouTube review on One Minute Theatre Reviews

Production photo from Nativity The Musical showing Simon Lipkin, Daniel Boys and children
Nativity! The Musical with Simon Lipkin, Daniel Boys and children
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Nativity! is already one of the nation’s favourite Christmas films, now Nativity! The Musical is destined to become a fixture on theatres’ advent calendars for many years to come.

For this, we have to thank writer and director Debbie Isitt. She did the same jobs on the Nativity films but, before she went into moviemaking, she was a renowned theatre writer and director. And it shows. Ms Isitt knows what works on stage.

So she has taken all the elements that made her film such a hit: the story of the disadvantaged schoolchildren attempting to put on a five star nativity show against all the odds, the memorable characters, the upbeat songs like Sparkle And Shine and Nazareth. Then she’s added many more songs (co-written with Nicky Ager) and some scenes that are pure theatre, such as a satirical number about Hollywood and the nativity show itself,  and turned it all into perfect theatrical entertainment.

You smile all the way through and come out beaming like a red nosed reindeer.

Debbie Isitt knows how to create a hit

This touring production, which I saw at Leeds Grand Theatre, is also blessed with an excellent cast. Simon Lipkin is very funny as the wildly enthusiastic man-child Mr Poppy. Daniel Boys as Mr Maddens finds the same combination of inner sadness, quiet determination and basic niceness that Martin Freeman found before him.

And the children, on whom the show stands or falls, are disciplined, well rehearsed and a total delight- the icing on the Christmas cake.

A bit of sentimental light entertainment is just what you need in the deep midwinter but there’s more to Nativity! The Musical than that. It has something to say about the importance of inspirational teachers, it captures the spirit of Christmas and it’s faultless theatre. Only a Scrooge wouldn’t love it.

In 2018, Nativity! The Musical tours to Coventry Belgrade (23-28 October), Liverpool Empire (31 October – 4 November), Glasgow King’s (7-11 November), Milton Keynes Theatre (14-18 November), Nottingham Theatre Royal (21-25 November), Edinburgh Festival Theatre (28 November-2 December), Oxford New Theatre (11-15 December) and London Apollo Hammersmith (19-31 December).

Here’s my YouTube review-

My November Theatre Picks

Christmas Eve at Theatre Royal Bath with Niamh Cusack & Patrick Baladi

Patrick Baladi and Niamh Cusack in Christmas Eve at Theatre Royal Bath
Patrick Baladi and Niamh Cusack in Christmas Eve at Theatre Royal Bath. Photo: Simon Annand

There’s still time to catch the UK premiere of Daniel Kehlmann’s new thriller Christmas Eve starring Niamh Cusack and Patrick Baladi at Theatre Royal Bath. The translation from the German is by Christopher Hampton who translated, among many things, Florian Zeller’s The Father and The Lie currently at The Menier. That alone is enough to recommend Christmas Eve but then there’s Niamh Cusack.

The last time I saw her was in Unfaithful in which she was extraordinary as wife who thought herself betrayed. This time she plays a philosophy professor on her way to celebrate Christmas when she is taken to a police interrogation room and accused of being involved with terrorism. Opposite her is a cynical, smart and relentless officer. These two powerful antagonists are pitted head to head, in real time. Both think they are saving their country. Only one of them will win.

The production runs at Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio until Saturday 18 November.  To find out more and book Christmas Eve, click here for Theatre Royal Bath website.

Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends the Musical at Leeds Grand & Touring

Cast of Kay Mellor's Fat Friends the Musical in rehearsal including Jodie Preener, Sam Bailey, Natasha Hamilton
Cast of Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends the Musical in rehearsal. Photo by Helen Maybanks.

If you love Kay Mellor’s work- and I certainly do- you’ll be delighted to hear her popular TV drama series Fat Friends has been turned into a musical. The heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking story about members of a slimmers’ club stars among others Sam Bailey, Jodie Prenger, Natasha Hamilton from Atomic Kitten and Freddie Flintoff, yes the Freddie Flintoff.

Kay wrote hit series like Band of Gold, The Chase and The Syndicate and the stage play A Passionate Woman, so she knows how to press your emotional buttons. The original music and songs composed by Nicholas Lloyd Webber, son of Andrew.

Fat Friends the Musical is at the Leeds Grand Theatre from 7 November until 2 December then it’s touring the UK. Click here to find out more and book Fat Friends the Musical.

Network at National Theatre with Bryan Cranston

Rehearsal image from Network with Bryan Cranston at National Theatre
Rehearsal image from Network at National Theatre. Photo: Jan Versweyveld

This month’s big London opening is Network at the National Theatre which starts on 4 November . You probably know the film in which a news anchorman facing the sack unravels live on screen. When the ratings soar, the network seizes on their new found populist and he becomes the biggest thing on TV.

Hilarious and horrifying Network depicts a dystopian media landscape where opinion trumps fact- and I use the word ‘trumps’ deliberately. The director is Ivo van Hove who was responsible for one of my all time favourite productions A View from The Bridge at the Young Vic. Playing the TV anchor man is Bryan Cranston. We know him from Breaking Bad but he also won a Tony for Best Actor in the Broadway show All the Way so he’s clearly pretty good on stage.

Network at the National Theatre runs from 4 November 2017 until 24 March 2018. Click here to go to the National Theatre website.

Quiz at Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre‘s latest offering is Quiz, a new comedy by James Graham who wrote This House, Ink and Labour Of Love. Ostensibly it tells the story of the coughing major who cheated his way to success on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire but apparently it explores the wider question of our new attitude to truth and lies. This should work really well in the intimate setting of The Minerva.

Quiz at The Minerva runs from 3 November to 9 December. Click here for more information and tickets about The Quiz at CFT.

London Fringe Theatre

On the London fringe, Park Theatre have two interesting offerings. Kathy Burke directs Revenge, a new comedy by Sam Bain, the co-writer and co-creator of Peep Show, about his high-flyer who leaves the City for the serenity of the Highlands, but finds he can’t escape his past. It runs from 2 November until 9 December. Matthew Campling‘s suddenly very topical new play The Secondary Victim concerns a psychotherapist, played by Susannah Doyle, who is accused of sexual misconduct. That runs from 14 November to 9 December.

Click here for Park Theatre’s website