As Christmas is less than 48 hours away, I thought I’d do my blog post about something Christmassy. What better than talking about the musical I went to see over the weekend based on one of my favourite Christmas films, Nativity.
Of course, in advance, I was worried about seeing the musical adaptation of the film. I have seen School of Rock on the West End and to me that just did not feel as good as the original film (mostly because no one can capture Jack Black energy but Jack Black) and this adaptation might be the same. In addition, the musical might capture the energy of the cornier and frustrating Nativity sequels, sequels which I treat much like the Fantastic Four 2015 reboot and half pretend they do not exist. But alas, it did not and I would argue the musical may be even better than the original film.
For those of you who have not seen the original film, it was about a really bad primary school called St. Bernadette which always held terrible Nativities . One day, the headteacher forced Mr Madden, a teacher who hates Christmas because his girlfriend left him for fame in Hollywood, to lead the Nativity despite his last failure to direct one many years ago. She also assigns him an assistant, Mr Poppy, a child in an adults’ body. Due to Mr Poppy’s gullibility, the whole town finds out about a white lie that Hollywood is coming to see St Bernadette’s Nativity and the two teachers must turn that lie into the truth and use the talents of St Bernadette to put on the best Nativity ever. It’s a heart-warming story about Christmas spirit and teachers believing in the potential of their students. The musical adaptation captures this better than the film.
The musical element worked very well with the story. The songs were fun and catchy, ‘Nazareth’ became a leitmotif song repeated throughout the play. Plus the Musical seemed to explore and explain more of the story than the original film. The backstory of Mr Madden and how his girlfriend left him was shown much clearer, making you feel more for the character. Jennifer’s (Ashleigh Grey), Mr Madden’s girlfriend, story was explained better and act 2 she actually became an actual character and not just an object symbolising Hollywood (her dress literally represented the red carpet during one song), which made her character someone you could relate to a lot more than the movie adaptation.
The best part of the musical was the children. It was so inspiring to see so many young children putting all their energy into the choreography of the dance sequences which were entertaining, in sync and pretty cool. You could tell they were all doing the best and they seem to be really enjoying it. Although, the energy seemed to be let down by the three celebrities, the star power bringing people to see the show, Danny Dyer, Dani Dyer and Sharon Osbourne. Do not get me wrong, seeing Danny Dyer dressed up as a planet was probably worth having him in the show. However, it felt like they weren’t really acting or putting any energy into their characters except for potentially Danny Dyer who put in the most energy of the three and was most entertaining of the three to watch (If someway Danny Dyer is reading this, please do not hurt me for the criticism). His side story, which was not explored in the original film, felt least believable because the three celebs just did not act very well.
The reason why I feel this musical was better than the original film is that it better represented the spirit of Christmas. In the original film, when it came down to the Nativity, it was more or less perfect. Everyone could sing more or less in tune, it was cute but there were little to no mistakes whatsoever and the performance went really smoothly. The musical took a different approach. It felt more believable. The rapping (Yes, there weren’t multiple raps in the Musical) and some of the songs were not always clear. None of the singers were pitch-perfect. They were ordinary children and it was ok that it was not perfect because it was a primary school Nativity. What was important is that they all took part, they did it together and they had fun and that’s what Christmas, at the heart, is all about. Family and friends coming together, spending time with their loved ones, to do something they enjoy despite it being chaotic. This idea was demonstrated further by the ensemble cast, acting as parents, getting involved in the Nativity. This was the message of the original film but it was the core aspect of this musical which means at Christmas it is hard to find much fault in it. The Musical was a cute, heart-warming show getting the entire audience pumped for the most wonderful time of the year.
The musical as a whole was fun for the whole family, with silly humour, impersonations and current affairs references which only the adults got (to name a few, there was a cats reference, Ant from Ant and Dec joke, two Brexit and Love island jokes and a joke about a Pizza Express in Woking which was somehow allowed). Simon Lipkin brought Mr Poppy to life with the amount of energy he put in the character and Scott Garnham played a better Mr Madden than Martin Freeman did originally. The costumes were stunning, especially in the Hollywood scene where Mr Madden does several super quick costume changes as a clothing rack goes past. At times, there are fourth wall breaks and audience interaction, making the performance a bit like a pantomime. The ensemble cast was amazing, the staging and lighting were on point and I do not think there was some way they could make it better. If you can I would recommend watching this musical before it ends on the 29th or at least going to see it next year as the show has been going on since 2017 and I doubt they will not renew it next Christmas.