What is the best Christmas film? Sorry, that was a rhetorical question, because as we all know, the best Christmas film is Nativity! (and I’m willing to fight anyone who disagrees).
Following the Christmas nativity play at a primary school in Coventry, the film is a whole load of wholesome family fun and when they announced that a musical adaptation was coming out, I couldn’t contain my excitement.
In many ways, going to see Nativity! The Musical felt like watching a big budget panto and the writers had catered for this, packing the piece with jokes for everyone. The show was full of well-executed physical comedy, with credit going to Simon Lipkin for his portrayal of childlike teaching assistant Mr Poppy that made that incredibly annoying character likeable. Jokes for kids were cleverly intercut with adult humour; these gags landed well with the parents in the audience, safe in the knowledge that they would’ve gone straight over their kids’ heads.
The production was laden with contemporary references to bring the piece up to 2017, with jokes about Game of Thrones and 50 Shades of Grey sure to elicit easy laughs from the audience. Whilst well received, they were perhaps laid on a little thick, bordering on cringeworthy where they weren’t always needed.
The kids themselves were the real stars of the show; despite obvious nerves when performing to a huge crowd, the singing, acting and dancing was of a very high standard. The rivalry between St. Bernadette’s and Oakmoor Private School was played out effectively by both casts of children — although, loyalty to St. Bernadette’s aside, I do have to admit that the Jesus Christ Superstar inspired ‘King Herod: A Rock Opera’ was potentially my favourite original song.
As the title suggests, Nativity! The Musical is not a radical or new show; anyone who has seen the movie will recognise the original plot and script, the latter of which was deviated from minimally. As a result, I felt I was pre-empting a lot of the jokes before they were delivered, but this may not be an issue for someone who has watched the film slightly fewer times…
They say ‘never work with animals or children’ and Nativity! The Musical did both, with this ambition causing a few hiccups along the way. However, the forgotten lines and giggles on stage added to the authentic feel of the show, leaving the audience like parents watching their kids in a nativity play. The show was surprisingly emotional festive fun and the sheer enthusiasm of the cast meant that this diamond of a musical ultimately sparkled and shined.