Nativity! The Musical

December 17, 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Sparkly and shining

Fettes College: Thurs 15 – Sun 18 Dec 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Nativity! The Musical, Captivate Theatre’s seasonal offering at Fettes, is ideal Christmas fare. Full of joy and melody, it sometimes lacks polish, but never lacks heart.

The musical faithfully follows Debbie Isitt’s 2009 film, which was the beginning of a series that is often seen as the very embodiment of the law of diminishing returns. The original movie, by far the most impressive and charming, is firmly established as a festive institution.

Scott Coltman as Mr Poppy and some of the young cast of Nativity! The Musical. Pic: Captivate.

Paul Maddens, a primary school teacher, attempts to get one over on a teacher at a more well-heeled school by boasting that their former friend (and Maddens’ ex) Jennifer, now apparently a Hollywood big shot, is coming over to film his class’s Nativity play.

The stage version (with music and lyrics by Isitt and Nicky Ager) adds little to the film except length and some extra musical numbers – which are less memorable than the ones already in the film, such as the now almost ubiquitous Sparkle And Shine.

Turning it into a full-blown musical does create real problems for the storyline, but a production can overcome these with sheer energy and determination – which is what undoubtedly happens here.

pacy and sympathetic

Sally Lyall’s direction is pacy and sympathetic, meaning that a show which in professional productions has dragged, particularly at the start of the second half, fairly flies by.

The studio theatre at Fettes, despite being technically very well equipped, does not necessarily have the greatest sight lines for some of the audience, but this is overcome by the constant movement on stage.

It should also be pointed out that it is not the warmest space, and the configuration makes it very obvious if anyone needs to nip out for a comfort break during proceedings.

John Knox gives Paul Maddens a multi-faceted, reassuringly human air, which could also be said of Claire Maclean as Jennifer. Peter Tomassi, as Paul’s rival Gordon, is necessarily more one-dimensional, but compensates with an infectious evil glee.

Some of the young cast of Nativity! The Musical. Pic: Captivate

The rest of the older cast, under the musical direction of Julie Durham and the choreography of Dannielle Logan, are an impressive and well-drilled ensemble, performing the various minor roles with aplomb.

Hazel Beattie’s headteacher Mrs Bevan is compelling, while Logan and Scott Binnie also impress. Brett Herriot has great fun as a harsh reviewer, which may add realism – but not enough to explain why a drama critic would spend so much of their time reviewing primary school productions in the first place.

In many ways, the adult performers are secondary; it is the children who most of the audience have come to see, and who are always going to steal the show.

warmth and effectiveness

For the younger cast, Lyall is assisted by MD Fraser Hume and choreographer Georgia Roberts, and there is no denying the warmth and effectiveness of the results. There is the odd rough edge, but this just lets the various personalities shine through more clearly.

The featured performers – Aran Stewart, Calum Caulfield, Charlie Waller and Martha Broderick (with Alice McAslan and Olivia Patterson alternating with Broderick and Waller) are uniformly impressive. The entire young company, nearly 30-strong, provide a constant injection of energy, good humour and pizzazz. The whole creative team deserve great credit for achieving such a cohesive spectacle.

There is the odd glitch, with some mic-switching in particular proving troublesome, but nothing to detract from the overall effect.

That it is so cohesive is largely down to Scott Coltman holding it all together as Mr Poppy. Marc Wootton’s deeply weird portrayal of the childlike teaching assistant in the original movie has been replaced in subsequent versions by something much more annoying and ludicrous, but Coltman manages to achieve a performance that is likeable and magnetic while still being extremely odd.

Coltman also handles the topical and off-the-cuff elements (that were very much part of Isitt’s original conception) with real skill, interacting beautifully with the audience. At times, he comes close to turning it into a full-blown pantomime, but this is only fitting for such a good-hearted and thoroughly seasonal production.

Running time 2 hours 25 minutes including one interval
Fettes College, Crewe Road South, EH4 2XU
Thursday 15 – Sunday 18 December 2022
Evenings at 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat & Sun at 2.30 pm.
Information and tickets: Book here

Captivate website: https://www.captivatetheatre.com/
Twitter: @Captivate_LTD
Facebook: @captivatetheatre

ENDS

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Comments (1)

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  1. Bobbie minshull says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this afternoon’s performance. Mr Poppy made the show but the children were all enthusiastic and entertaining. A lot of hard work has obviously gone into the show. Well done to all.