Nativity The Musical - Review

It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since the first Nativity movie was released. The hit stage adaptation of that original movie returns for its third year running opening at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre.
Scott Paige (Centre) as Mr Poppy with Scott Garnham (black jumper) and Ashleigh Gray (far right) and the Nativity children. 
Writer, composer and director Debbie Isitt proves once again that she is the Queen of Christmas. Keeping much of what made the stage adaptation work but with a few new tweaks, Debbie's production dazzles throughout. 

We follow three friends, Paul Maddens, Gordon Shakespeare and Jennifer Lore. Paul dreams of becoming a primary school teacher, Gordon wants to be a famous actor but too ends up at a primary school and Jennifer dreams of working in Hollywood. A blossoming romance between Paul and Jennifer is cut short just before Christmas time as she accepts a Hollywood internship. Leaving Paul deflated and with new hate for Christmas.

At St Bernadette's Primary School it's decided that Mr Maddens will direct this year's Nativity, he's joined by classroom assistant Mr Poppy. Chaos ensues when Mr Poppy overhears that Hollywood will be coming over to film the Nativity. It's up to the teachers and students to club together and make their Hollywood Nativity dream come true.

Scott Paige brings Mr Poppy to life in such an exciting new way. His boundless energy and infectious personality lighten up everything. He is a joy from the get-go. This really is a star-making turn from him. Scott Garnham is tremendous as Paul Maddens, he plays the character superbly encompassing every emotion. The two Scott's interact magically together, a genius double act. 

Charles Brunton is brilliant as Gordon Shakespeare, he brings the madcap of the role out to the full. He is wicked and the right amount of evil. Ashleigh Gray's warmth and likeability as Jennifer make it easy to see why Paul is still in love with her. Ashleigh's gorgeous vocal quality is a joy to listen too.
The 2018 Nativity Company. Photo by Richard Davenport
Penelope Woodman's is hugely likeable as Mrs Bevan, the headteacher of St Bernadette's, she has such a great vocal range too. Jamie Chapman returns and shines in the numerous roles he plays, especially as the snooty newspaper critic, Patrick Burns. Dani Dyer givens a nice cameo as Hollywood producer Polly Parker. Pepper who plays Cracker the Dog naturally upstages everyone.

The adult ensemble all do a fine job. Jonathan Bourne's Lord Mayor and Kade Ferraiolo's Mr Rye are great. Helena Pipe bursts to life in "Good News". Dawn Buckland, Billy Roberts, Amy Oxley and Connor Ewing all enhance the production with their presence and ability. 

The children are a joy. They're all excellently talented. I adore the number "Dear Father Christmas" where the children sing about the letters they've written for Santa wishing for happiness for Mr Maddens and the Nativity. The Nativity sequences which the production ends on are 20 minutes of just wonderful happiness. The whole company come together to deliver a sensational finale. I defy you not to sit with a massive smile on your face. 

There's great music numbers written by Debbie and Nicky Ager. The famous numbers which feature in the film are here, "Sparkle and Shine", "One Night, One Moment", "Good News" and "One Look" are all joined by original numbers which work really well. "Hollywood Are Coming" is a stand out in the first act. One of the best sounding live bands really enhances the production, under the musical direction of Dan Glover, the 5 piece band are as good as any you'll hear on any theatre production.

David Woodhead's colourful design sparkles throughout. The use of the giant Christmas presents on either side of the stage really enhances extra stage entrance points. Tim Mitchell's lighting design too really enhances the production, especially in the second act's Nativity sequences. 

Andrew Wright, who is one of the finest choreographer's and directors around once again adds marvellous choreography which is superbly performed by the company. 

There's really not a weak moment in the 2-hour 20-minute production and that comes right from the top and Debbie Isitt's genius vision. Sharing an auditorium with people of all ages who are sat laughing, smiling and have a brilliant time leaves me feeling warm and uplifted. You'll leave the theatre with an extra bit of happiness in your step. Nativity is back at the top of the Christmas tree.

Rating: ★★★★★ - a festive joy for all ages. Nativity proves once again why it's the BEST family production around. Unmissable.

Nativity continues at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre until Saturday 2nd November. The tour then visits Aylesbury's Waterside Theatre, Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre, Cardiff's Wales Millennium Centre, Plymouth's Theatre Royal, Southampton's Mayflower Theatre. It then plays at London's Eventim Apollo from 11th to 29th December. For more details and tickets visit https://www.nativitythemusical.com/

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