A Night to Remember is a musical retelling of the nativity story, extended to include some of the wider biblical details around the birth of Jesus, which are usually not included in the treasured school tradition. Presented by an ensemble cast, this sung-through musical, composed and directed by James Arthur Patterson, is an interesting take on a Christmas story, which aims to educate the audience on the biblical aspects of the story. The show was performed in aid of veterans and featured some veterans and active service members in the cast.
The show opens in the modern day, showing a busy city street with shoppers and the sadly ubiquitous homeless people. A song about the magic of Christmas is performed and several of the performers give money and gifts to homeless people, as an illustration of generosity. This scene is followed by a journey back in time to the night of Jesus’ birth and isn’t returned to again. It may have been nice for the end of the musical to loop back to this present-day scene and make some commentary on whether or not the true meaning of Christmas has been maintained or lost to time.
In the earlier timeline we see a world where the power of the Roman empire is absolute. The citizens of the world presented feel abandoned and let down by God. The overall opinion though is that a new prophet will come and there is faith that the darker times will pass. There is therefore great relief when the birth of Jesus comes about, and shepherds and wise men alike rejoice and worship their new king.
Some elements of the story have been reinterpreted and it’s particularly interesting to see a furious Joseph (Patterson) say that the stable Mary (Rose Carff) is offered to give birth in isn’t fit for pigs, never mind labour. It would have been interesting to see Mary given a voice and see how she feels about giving birth to the son of God, but her presence onstage is fleeting.
There are some decent vocal performances, and some of the songs are quite catchy and stand out as strong points. Some clever writing makes some of the lyrics very meaningful and there is a wider message outside of the religious aspects. The balance of harmonies could be stronger in a few places and there are some lyrics which are inaudible as a result, meaning it is easy to miss parts of the story, particularly if you are not fully familiar with the scripture being referred to. Some interesting anachronistic choreography serves to make the musical more appealing to wider audiences and adds some fun touches to the show.
The fear shown by the shepherds over the appearance of an angel is very good and believable. Some acrobatics surrounding the birth are also a fun touch. The lighting used for the star hanging over the stable has been shaped into a cross which is a clever and interesting touch.
A Night to Remember is an interesting interpretation of an old and well-known story, put together by a cast and crew who are clearly passionate about their subject. It features some fun songs and there are some great portrayals of the different characters in the story by a dedicated cast. With some further work to bring the two narratives together and ensure that no elements of the songs are missed due to audibility issues, this could be a very strong piece of musical theatre.
A Night to Remember is being streamed by Edinburgh Fringe until 28th August 2023. Tickets are available here https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/night-to-remember
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 24th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: