Reviewed by Emily March
19th November 2019
Reviewer Rating: ★★★★
Nativity the Musical definitely brought sparkle and shine to a dull Cardiff Bay on Tuesday evening, almost 10 years to the day of the film release. Having been a fan of the film franchise since it first premiered, and the memorable songs have been a soundtrack to every Christmas since then; I was excited to see how the stage show would come to life.
The story follows an uptight school teacher’s white lie about Hollywood coming to see his class’ Nativity. Firstly we have to talk about the kids. Collectively they were amazing and I always looked forward to the next time they’d be on stage. What was great was the fact they weren’t weren’t slick stagey kids and were very natural throughout. This gave the same authentic humour and heart that the movie also has. Shoutout to little Teddy Saberton, a small but mighty talent, Evie Mallen for her gorgeous standout vocals, and dynamic duo Ana and Ela Morgan for their shining stage presence and humour. To see how confident the children were was inspiring and their performance and passion for the piece brought me to tears.
Scott Garnham made for a fantastic Mr Maddens. Again, very natural and very funny, with a great voice to match. He was very true to the original portrayal in the film, which really worked for the show too. Former Elphaba, Ashleigh Gray, who played Jennifer Lore had an equally amazing voice and made the role her own.
Both Charles Brunton and Penelope Woodman’s performances as Gordon Shakespeare and Mrs Bevan respectively, I particularly enjoyed. They were true to the characters in the film but definitely brought a uniqueness and freshness to the roles. Brilliant comic timing and stage presence.
I was underwhelmed by Dani Dyer’s contribution to the show. She didn’t blow me away, and some moments felt very awkward. Perhaps not her fault as her character, Polly Parker, didn’t pack much of a punch.
My biggest shoutout goes to the incredible Scott Paige who’s version of Mr Poppy was fresh, sassy and simply hilarious. He was laugh out loud funny throughout the whole performance. He owned the stage and carried the show, with a great relationship with the children on stage. He was also able to deliver the more tender moments and keep us in the palm of his hand. He may even be better than the film original. I’m still giggling! Bravo!
The best songs in the show were the ones taken from the film, and I felt that they would’ve been enough without the added extras to make it more of a ‘musical’. At times some of the songs felt a little unnecessary and slightly boring, even though the impressive voices of the cast shone through. The set was impressive and very festive which added to the mood of the show. The book is so joyful and hilarious, with a lot of slap stick comedy and innuendos to keep both kids and adults happy.
Overall, the show was pure festive fun, and I highly recommend it for a fun family night out. It stayed true to the film that we all know and love, and it was so exciting to see the real Nativity performance come to life on stage in front of me. It has something for everything and is the perfect watch this Christmas.
Nativity! is at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 23rd November. Limited tickets remain: https://www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2019/nativity/performances