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Nativity! – Review

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If you asked Santa to deliver something Christmassy, that made you laugh, cry and want to sing along, you’d not be far from unwrapping Nativity! 

The show is based on the popular film Nativity! (the first film in the trilogy – starring Martin Freeman as Paul Maddens). The premise of the show is the same as the film, but to watch the action unfold live on stage, culminating in a show-stopping finale, is something that really must be seen.

Drama school graduate, now primary school teacher Paul Maddens just doesn’t feel that Christmas spirit anymore after his true love, Jennifer Lore, left him during the festive season a few years earlier to become a Hollywood producer. So the last thing he wants to do is to direct St Bernadette’s school Nativity.

With his previous attempts earning him -2 star reviews from local reviewer Patrick Burns (who favors his rival Gordon Shakespeare’s festive shows at Oakmoor School) Mr. Maddens finds himself juggling his aching heart, his new larger-than-life teaching assistant Mr. Poppy and a white lie about Hollywood that soon spirals out of control…

An exceptional cast burst onto the stage with a fantastic set and feel-good script & score that brings together all the fun and magic of Christmas. With a talented set of youngsters playing the St Bernadette’s and Oakmoor primary school students fitting perfectly with the older professional cast, this show is a must-see for audiences of all ages.

Many of the cast from the 2018 production return to breathe life back into their characters, and rather than reusing their old material, they all bring updated in-jokes and current cultural references which is pleasing to see, keeping the show ‘On Point’. 

The multi-talented star of the show is Scott Paige playing the infamous Mr. Poppy. His energy alone can fill an empty stage, and from the moment we meet his warm, charming character he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. His rapport with the young members of the company, his enthusiasm for life and his portrayal of such an innocent, hilarious and animated character are just a few of the things that make Paige an absolute joy to watch on stage.

Scott Garnham as Mr. Maddens has such a depth and range that goes from no-nonsense primary school teacher to unlucky in love bachelor, to director of the most ambitious school nativity to date. His character really does undergo a roller-coaster ride of emotions and his endearing portrayal of his story is the glue that holds the show together. 

Other show-stealing moments come from Charles Brunton as Gordon Shakespeare, the ‘posh’ school rival of Mr. Maddens who is also competing for 5 star Nativity reviews. His portrayal of the smarmy, full-of-himself Mr. Shakespeare was perfect; his numbers performed alongside his excellent young team of “Oakmoorians” made for fantastic viewing, in particular his Gene Simmons influenced depiction of King Herod. Ashleigh Gray was also fantastic as Mr. Maddens’ long lost love interest Jennifer Lore, her soprano vocal range is stunning and a particular highlight between her and Scott Garnham is their scenes which star Pepper the real-life dog as “Cracker”.

Jamie Chapman is hilarious as The Critic – Patrick Burns, who dishes out brutally honest reviews of the local Nativities. 

Dani Dyer plays a cameo role as Jennifer’s high maintenance employer, bringing all the glamour and charm of a Hollywood personality with more than a hint of East End lass to proceedings.

Yet again the real stars of the show are the children cast as pupils of St Bernadette’s (national auditionees for the full tour) and The Oakmoor School (local based children); they integrate with the adult cast seamlessly, never missing a beat and you are hard pushed to believe the tour is only just beginning. Not only do they sing and dance, but in particular the students from Mr. Maddens’ class have named speaking parts and individual recognizable characters that are played with real depth and feeling. *Full casting list for children below.

The entire show has been directed superbly by Writer, Director and Composer Debbie Isitt. The show is so fresh, the pace is never dropped once, and is kept moving by cleverly thought out scene changes that use the characters to move set, and become parts of the set at times. There are beautifully crafted montages particularly in the Hollywood section of the show, and this is all before the pure excellence of the main event and finale.

The set by David Woodhead is so brilliantly minimal and adaptable it sees the show move seamlessly from one scene to the next.

This show is perfect for audiences of all ages. Whilst one minute you will hear the delighted squeals of young audience members laughing at a child on stage, the next minute you will hear the belly laughter of the adults from a joke that passes straight over all the children’s heads.

This really is the most perfect hilarious, heart-warming festive treat to put you in the Christmas mood. 

* St Bernadette’s casting list: Thomas Bastable, Evie Bennell-Low, Olivia Brooks, Niamh Crowley, Erin Freeman, Lucas Haywood, Alex Hogg, Kheiri Isaac-Osmani, Isabel Landers, Evie Mallen, Joshua Millard-Lloyd, Ana Morgan, Ela Morgan, Amy-Louise Mulhall, Alastair Ngwenya, Gerald Ngwenya, Tega Oduko, Kayan Parmar, Lyla Peters, Katelyn Rollason, Teddy Saberton, Grace Townley and Nicholas Vakis

Tour Dates

Wolverhampton, Grand Theatre
29th Oct – 2nd Nov

Aylesbury, Waterside Theatre
6th Nov – 10th Nov 

Canterbury, Marlowe Theatre
13th Nov – 17th Nov 

Cardiff, Wales Millenium Centre
19th Nov – 23rd Nov

Plymouth, Theatre Royal
26th Nov – 30th Nov

Southampton, Mayflower Theatre
3rd Dec – 7th Dec

London, Eventim Apollo
11th Dec – 29th Dec