dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Festive fun for the family
There's plenty of sparkle to the new Birmingham Repertory Theatre production Nativity! The Musical. Based on the hit film by Debbie Isitt, the stage version will delight fans of the movie – and people who are new to the story.
Set in Coventry, the show centres around the rivalry between two primary schools – Oakmoor private school which wins the city's Nativity trophy every year and poor old St Bernadette's which is in special measures and never wins anything. The ante between the two is increased because the two teachers who are organising the Nativity this year, Mr Shakespeare at Oakmoor and Mr Maddens at St Bernadette's, are old friends turned rivals who attended stage school together.
It's this rivalry which leads Mr Maddens (Daniel Boys) to boast to Mr Shakespeare (Andy Brady) that Hollywood is to film his school Nativity. The boast is a lie but it's heard by new teaching assistant Mr Poppy who unfortunately tells the entire St Bernadette's. What follows is charming and funny as the teachers and the children attempt to stage a Nativity worthy of a Hollywood audience.
Top of the class as far as the audience goes is Simon Lipkin as the totally zany Mr Poppy. Driving the adults mad but greatly loved by the children, Mr Poppy embraces Nativity fever and quickly has the youngsters on his side. All the children in the show have been cast locally and they are clearly loving being on stage with the production.
Daniel Boys is a likeable Mr Maddens and you can't help but feel for him as one careless lie becomes his worst nightmare. Jemma Churchill is his head teacher Mrs Bevan – who veers between doubting and believing that the children she teaches have the ability to take on the show.
Debbie Isitt is the production's writer, director and co-composer with Nicky Ager and she turns the same star quality to the musical that she did to the film. It's full of humour, loveable characters and some great new songs. It also takes place in a fantastic set full of stars, Christmas presents and festive cheer, designed by David Woodhead.
A Birmingham Rep production, Nativity! The Musical is presented in association with Jamie Wilson, Entertainment One Films, Ramin Sabi and Belgrade Theatre Coventry. It plays The Rep until November 12 before going on tour until after Christmas.