REVIEW: Nativity ★★★★ – UK Tour

“…oozing festive cheer and holiday magic with sparkling lights and shining stars”


West End Theatre Guide

Nativity the Musical was developed by the creator of the original Nativity film trilogy, Debbie Isitt. The show’s world premiere began in Birmingham’s Repertory Theatre on 20th October 2017, and it will then do a short UK tour over the festive period. It is based on the first 2009 movie, where a simple Coventry primary school nativity play gets turned upside down and is transformed into an overblown, chaotically wonderful production.

The story’s foundation is a rather un-festive rivalry between Mr Maddens (teacher at an underprivileged school, St Bernadette’s) and Mr Shakespeare (teacher at a snobbish private school, Oakmoor), who are in competition to put on the best nativity play. In an attempt at one-upmanship, Maddens boasts that a Hollywood producer is coming to see the St Bernadette’s nativity to turn it into a movie. His assistant, Mr Poppy, overhears this lie, and, believing it is true, he joyfully spreads the word throughout the school and the city of Coventry before Maddens can undo his error.

Mr Maddens is reserved and conservative, sworn off Christmas because his girlfriend, Jennifer, broke up with him shortly before the holidays to pursue her dream career as a Hollywood producer, and he is unable to see any talent in his class. The loveable Mr Poppy is hired as Maddens’ assistant, bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood wonderfully, and he is adored by the children. Mr Poppy believes every one of his kids is unique and special and he helps Mr Maddens to come to this realisation too and, together, the two put on a whacky but, against all odds, successful and unforgettable nativity play.

The 27-strong cast of kids are unquestionably the stars of the show. Daniel Boys (The Boy in the Band, Miss Atomic Bomb, and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris) is superb in the role of Mr Paul Maddens. Simon Lipkin (The Wind in the Willows, Whisper House, Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey (TV)) is in his element narrating the story as the fun-loving, charismatic Mr Desmond Poppy, singing, juggling and expertly ad-libbing his way through it and giving a knockout performance.

Isitt, along with Nicky Ager, more than doubles the original movie score (including, ‘Sparkle and Shine’, ‘Nazareth’, ‘She’s the Brightest Star’, and ‘One Night, One Moment’), adding super festive songs such as ‘Dear Father Christmas’, ‘Hollywood are Coming’, and ‘Our School Nativity’.

Nativity is a fun family show, far superior to the usual traditional pantomime fare, oozing festive cheer and holiday magic with sparkling lights and shining stars. It is everything that is required from a brilliant seasonal production and a great way to get in the Christmas spirit!

Nativity is currently touring the UK (for more information on tour dates and destinations and to buy tickets, click here).