Reviewed by Lorna Templeton
It may only be early November, but the Christmas markets are open, the TV ads have arrived, and the festive season is already in full swing. And what could be more festive than a show about schoolchildren performing a nativity play?
The 2009 movie is now regarded as a festive classic, beloved by families as entertainment for all ages, but that doesn’t always mean a stage adaptation will hit the mark. Luckily Nativity had no such problems on that front. While very faithful to the source film, the addition of musical numbers and positioning of the hilarious Mr Poppy character firmly at the centre of proceedings ensures the stage show is even better than the film. The new songs are catchy and fit seamlessly into the narrative, with a hugely impressive array of vocal talent on show, particularly Ashleigh Gray as Jennifer.
Simon Lipkin is simply superb as Mr Poppy, carrying the whole show effortlessly. He steals every scene he is in and is far funnier and more likeable than the film version of his character. The audience, young and old, were in stitches at some of his lines, many of which you suspect were not in the script! His charm and talent lit up the stage.
Scott Garnham is a dead ringer for his movie counterpart Martin Freeman as Mr Maddens, and also shows off an impressive singing voice later in the show.
As with all nativity plays though, the real stars are the children. The young cast of this show are incredible, real stars of the future. They sing, act, and hit every mark, absolutely astonishing for such young children. It’s their performance of the nativity that makes the whole show. It’s perfectly staged so that we, the audience, play the role of their audience, and the interactive elements ensure every member of the audience feels genuine engagement with the performance. The young actors playing the St Bernadette’s children are formidably talented. The rival Oakwood Primary pupils are played by local children who all auditioned for their roles and play them extremely professionally and enthusiastically. Andy Brady as Mr Shakespeare must have a huge task building a rapport with a new set of children at every venue, but you would never know, his relationship with the children would have you believing they had known each other for years, and his King Herod is a highlight of the latter part of the show.
Jane McCarry, best known as Isa in Still Game, is great in her role as the Hollywood producer, it’s clear she is relishing her new opportunities now the hit show has finished.
The stage looks beautiful and the choreography is spot on, everything flows seamlessly.
I’ve seen many shows at the King’s Theatre but I can honestly say I have never seen such a rapturous reception from an audience before, the ovation was huge and appreciative, and much deserved. The mood outside the theatre afterwards was fantastic, with everyone raving about what a wonderful time they had had. Every single person left with a smile on their face.
This show deserves to be a massive hit, it’s one of the most perfectly executed screen to stage transitions I’ve ever witnessed, and I would be delighted to watch it every year.
Tickets cost from £17.90 to £62.40 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Nativity The Musical is at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow from 7-11 November 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/kings or call the box office on 0844 871 7648.
King’s Theatre, 297 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4JN | 0844 871 7648