Thursday, December 8

Nativity! The Musical – The Rep, Birmingham

Based on the film Nativity! The musical version premiered at The Rep in 2017 and has since had three runs in London and a UK tour. This family favourite has come home for Christmas, returning to The Rep, bringing some Sparkle and Shine to everyone.

We see two Coventry schools trying their best to get a five-star review for their annual Nativity play. The private school Oakmoor excel at this where the underachieving St Bernadette’s fail to get even one star. Head of St Bernadette’s Mrs Bevan is determined this year will be different and enlists her nephew to help. While Mr Poppy is a hit with the kids his ideas are very different to Teacher Mr Maddens. Can they work together to create a masterpiece? Will Hollywood come and will lost loves be re kindled?

Undisputedly the stars of this show are the children. Full of enthusiasm and energy, their joy is infectious, it is clear they are loving every minute. Their performances take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, tugging at your heart strings with ‘Dear Father Christmas’ and making you laugh with their auditions. The children of Oakmoor are pristine and polished, their Nativity number based on the story of King Herod is of a quality many adults would aspire to. Of course, the highlight of the show is the Nativity itself. Matilda Flower has the audience in the palm of her hand throughout the show but in the role of  Star she sparkles and shines brightly. The five kings give a performance worthy of any boyband and Gabriel makes sure the whole audience is grooving. There are some vocal performances that show that these children have a bright future ahead of them.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

The adults in the cast can’t be forgotten, from the company who double as parents, teachers and tap-dancing reindeer to the main characters. Mr Poppy (Ben Lancaster) bounces onto the stage with infectious exuberance. His child like optimism and hope mean you warm to him and will him to succeed. The child who accompanied me said his performance was better than the Mr Poppy in the film. She also enjoyed Billy Roberts portrayal of Mr Maddens. Roberts is relatable as the heartbroken teacher who had dreams. His journey through the show is clear as his eyes are opened by Mr Poppy. Every show needs a bad guy and Matthew Rowland is deliciously devious and unlikable as Mr Shakespeare, a man with ideas above his talent. Whenever Jennifer (Daisy Steere) is on stage she brings a warmth and touch of glamour, her duets with Mr Maddens are beautiful. Also worthy of mention are Jemma Churchill as Mrs Bevan with a cracking voice and the critic Patrick Burns (Jamie Chapman) who makes you think of Alan Carr.

This production has been updated since 2017 refreshing the look and some of the jokes, there are plenty of topical one liners to keep it relevant and add that extra zing.  There is everything you could wish for in a seasonal show, cute kids, a love story, a message, lots of laughs (including some just for the adults) and lots of sparkle. It is a heart-warming, feel good festive feast that will have you smiling and humming all the way home. A perfect treat for adults and children alike. It had an appreciative audience on its feet way before the end.

19th November 2022 – 7th January 2023, https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/nativity-the-musical/

Reviewer: Annette Nuttall

Reviewed: 24th November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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