This musical version of Debbie Isitt’s Nativity does exactly what it says on the tin. It expands the story of the film, adding musical numbers, dance, moments to a character’s consciousness, and a lot of glitter.
A story so simple and warm with humour easily brings joy to adults as well as children. I went with three of my girlfriends, all of us in our early twenties, and we could not stop creasing. The social references were a clever source of comedy which appealed to the adult audience – each reference fitting and timely. They did not go too far or become offensive in any way: they just made the musical more up-to-date.
The set was fantastical. I could not stop my mind from wondering just how long it must have taken to paint and glitter each set which framed the stage. The transition from screen to stage is always a complex one, but the set designer’s use of props gave enough symbolism to the film. The gigantic trophy-shaped trophy cabinet was far from subtle expressing Gordon Shakespeare’s high achieving arrogance. I did wonder how David Woodhouse was going to mimic the caravan that Mr Poppy lives in, which appears in a scene towards the end of the story and his alternative only adds humour. You’ll have to watch it to find out.
Mr Poppy, played by Simon Lipkin, adopted the narrator role, only adding to the original character’s hilarity. He became our guide, a guide who you would never dream to trust your life with, but was entertaining nonetheless. Another character who was built on in the musical was Oli, adding not only humour, but giving the character a more sincere, personal tone. While being fun, celebratory and a bit silly, the musical touched on the importance of family at Christmas and how art can bring people together. The children at St Bernadette’s are the equivalent to the kids at the local run-down state primary school; children who are often devoid of opportunities like this or appreciated for their efforts. The story touches on this idea with subtly and sensitivity.
My only criticism in terms of characters in the musical interpretation was the absence of Bob. In the film, Bob is one of the school children from Mr Madden’s class. Referred to as ‘Gollum’ by Mr Poppy, Bob is for me one of the main sources of entertainment in the film. His naivety and innocence, mixed with adult references makes him on of the most lovable characters for me.
It was a musical which could not help but make you smile. It was far from cringy, but was simply pure entertaining. For someone who loathes musicals, I’m finding it difficult to put into words just how much I enjoyed the show.
If you want an evening of fun, where you won’t be able to move from the pain in your stomach muscles, then make sure to book at the Palace Theatre in Manchester before the tour ends.