Christmas is coming – trees and decorations are going up in shops, movies are appearing on TV, and right now, there’s a nativity being performed in Glasgow.
But this isn’t just any nativity, as it’s Nativity! – The Musical, currently being performed at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow.
Based on the hit film of the same name, it has been adapted for the stage by Debbie Isitt, the creator of the much-loved films.
From the word go, you know that you’re in for fun. There’s Christmas presents piled high at the side of the stage, the set is bright, and the show’s name is hanging there in lights. If this doesn’t get you into the mood for Christmas, then, well, your first name is probably Ebenezer.
We’re introduced to the main characters, Mr Maddens, Jennifer Lore and Mr Shakespeare, with their backstory filled in quickly. In a nutshell, there are three childhood friends – Maddens falls in love with Jennifer, who rejects Shakespeare, before she flies off to work in movies in Hollywood. The rejected – and dejected – pair become teachers, who battle it out with their school nativity productions.
Maddens – played by Scott Garnham, a graduate of Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire – finds things are turned upside down with the arrival of Mr Poppy (Simon Lipkin). Lipkin invests a childlike glee in his character, who befriends the children and is very much a believable manchild. In one scene, it was hard to tell if Lipkin genuinely managed to break character along with Garnham, as the pair had a giggle on stage!
His enthusiasm and finding joy in the smallest of things feels genuine, while Garnham brings a downtrodden charm to his character, making for a pleasing double-act.
A word too for Andy Brady as Mr Shakespeare, the villain of the piece – he’s hugely entertaining, especially with his Herod rock musical. Jamie Chapman is also memorable with his turn as Patrick Burns. Not having seen the film, I thought he was channeling TV’s Chatty Man Alan Carr – a quick check tells me that was exactly who played the part on the big screen. He’s very, very good.
Things get out of hand when Maddens tries to get one up on Shakespeare, claiming that a Hollywood producer is coming to see the show to turn it into a film. The problem is, Jennifer isn’t actually coming to see the show, as he hasn’t spoken to her in five years.
Normally, I have a dislike of singing children – perhaps this is down to a dislike of Oliver! and Annie that stems from my youth – but the young cast in this production are very, very good. Their comedy timing is good, they could all sing and dance, and, near the end, their bravery on the high-flying props was outstanding.
Cleverly, the cast is augmented as it tours around the country, with the part of the Hollywood Producer being taken by actors from that part of the UK. In Glasgow, we had Still Game’s Jane McCarry, looking resplendent and nothing like Isa, her character in the TV comedy.
The props and sets are very, very good. This is a slick production that moves with pace, with the cast feeling very accomplished and well-rehearsed.
And the script is very good too – there’s plenty of pop cultural references to be had and enjoyed, with a few topical references slipped in for good measure too.
There’s plenty of songs which appear in the Nativity! movies including Sparkle and Shine, Nazareth, One Night One Moment and She’s the Brightest Star, which are joined by a whole host of new songs.
Put on your Christmas jumper, sit back and enjoy this cracker of a show.
Nativity! The Musical is at the King’s Theatre Glasgow until Sunday, November 11.
Click HERE to book tickets.