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 December 2017 Theatre Picks

Scene from Nativity! The Musical
Nativity! The Musical on tour

Christmas? Humbug! But which Scrooge to choose? I’m hoping to get to one of the two fabulous-sounding Christmas Carols, either at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon adapted by David Edgar and starring Phil Davis or at the Old Vic in London with Rhys Ifans.

I have high hopes of the touring production of Nativity! The Musical, which has had some very good reviews. It’s going to be my theatrical Christmas treat during the Christmas holiday week (well, I hope it is- see my review at the end of the month).

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe at West Yorkshire Playhouse is a clever magical production well worth a trip to Narnia via Leeds.

There’s nothing like a traditional panto at Christmas so, before it’s behind you, get down to Basildon for the Towngate Theatre’s Aladdin or head to Stratford East for the Theatre Royal’s Rapunzel.

Which is the fairest Christmas production of them all?  It’s hard to see how Pinocchio at the National Theatre can fail. It’s directed by John Tiffany who directed the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, written by Dennis Kelly co-writer of Matilda, lit by Paule Constable who’s currently lighting Heisenberg and features the songs from the Disney classic animation.