Arts Editor Rose Crees tells us why this nativity scene must be seen.
Nativity! the Musical triumphs at every twist and turn, jazz hand and box-step, sad moment and smile. While usually cautious of anything based on something else (be it film, book or musical), this show, it’s cast, script and staging delivered on every level cementing it as one of the most brilliant theatrical experiences of the moment. It’s rare to feel such a tangible joy in a room and this show’s immense happiness makes for laughter, tears and both at once.
This is a show for everyone, of all ages, backgrounds. Perhaps it is its ability to be utterly bonkers, and at times overwhelming, that gives it such a wholesome elation; the madness of sound and sight perfectly captures the essence of Hollywood, Christmas and working with children in a way that not only portrays them but takes that chaos to its very glittery core.
Relatable to students performing the nativity themselves, parents watching them, teachers like Mrs Madden and Poppy alike or those simply reminiscing Christmas in an ordinary British primary school, hilarity was not in short supply. Like with most shows aimed at a younger audience there were jokes tucked in for the adults. However these were not thrown in as an afterthought but cleverly woven into the dialogue and plot itself, moving away from simple dirty jokes towards topical references and amusing social commentaries. The disparities between the St Bernadette’s and Oakmoor students were polarised by one’s inability to sit still on a plastic chair while the other candidly danced in rigorous lines holding trophies while singing “we are better than you!” Never subtle, Nativity! the Musical unashamedly mocks and celebrates everyone that graces the stage.
The musical’s narrator, clown and bearer of all things festive undisputedly stole the show. Simon Lipkin’s Mr Poppy perfectly bridges the gap between the adults and children both on- and off-stage: looking worlds apart from Nativity!’s Marc Wooton, it was hard to imagine how this seemingly relevant and down-to-earth looking actor could capture the wild genius of the character but his constant energy and talent ensured every element of the show ran seamlessly. The children too showcased amazing talent without the overly-preened glassy eyes and sugary smiles that often comes with child actors. These were real children being allowed to perform their personalities on stage and exhibit their varying, and occasionally odd, talents. Katelyn-Janet Rollason’s performance was both sensationally confident and refreshing to see a young female actor being allowed to demonstrate her talent with such exuberance without being labelled as ‘bossy’ or a ‘show-off’.
There is nothing that could tarnish Nativity! the Musical other than the fact that it can’t be Christmas all year round. This is a preferable and perfect alternative to a pantomime offering more joy, warmth and charm through an intelligently written script and a stellar cast. Whether you have children or not, this is a must-see this Christmas, New Year and beyond.
Nativity! the Musical stays at Leeds Grand Theatre until 6th January.