Updated: Friday, 21st February 2020 @ 12:40pm

Review: Nativity! The Musical @ Palace Theatre, Manchester

Review: Nativity! The Musical @ Palace Theatre, Manchester

| By Adam Wareing

Nativity! The Musical is bringing the Christmas spirit to Manchester.

The feel-good festive film has been transformed into an even more joyous performance for all ages to enjoy at the Palace Theatre.

The show features all the classic songs from the movie, including Sparkle and Shine, Nazareth and Good News, but adds other uplifting and heartfelt tracks to pack a winter evening with musical joy.

The production champions the unpredictability that only children can provide, something which is far more suited to live performance than a cinematic production.

Shaun Lipkin gives a flawless performance as fun-loving Mr Poppy, narrating the play and showing off his brilliant vocal range in both a comedic and heartfelt fashion.

TRANSITION: The story suits the stage just like it did the silver screen

Mr Poppy’s character is cherished by all who watched the movie, but Lipkin makes you love him even more in this production.

He lifts one of the children up in Lion King fashion to give just one example of the character’s references to pop culture that have the audience in fits of laughter.

The play uses a chronological structure as opposed to the flashbacks in the film, which allows the audience to understand Mr Madden’s dislike of Christmas right from the off. 

The actors appear to resemble those in the movie, therefore bridging the gap between stage and set well.

In particular, Jamie Chapman’s likeness to Alan Carr’s character, local reviewer Patrick Burns, is obvious in both personality traits and appearance.

St Bernadette's rival school, Oakmoor, are portrayed well through strictly-drilled marching and perfectly-timed chanting, while the script really plays to the hilarious stereotypes of a private school.

UNPREDICTABLE: The children certainly add something to the production

This is epitomised when one of their children sings ‘I’ve got no feelings, just an IQ’, which is received by raucous laughter from the audience.

One of the film’s most catchy songs, Nazareth, is re-written to be sung by the St Bernadette's children about their love for the school and is cleverly positioned to uplift the audience early on.

All numbers sang by the children are delivered in typically high-pitched voices, which really carry the Christmas spirit of a young choir.

The use of instruments to build atmospheric tension and jubilation is impressive too.

The lighthearted saxophone used during a spelling test and the slow piano rendition of Sparkle and Shine when the nativity was cancelled evokes opposing feelings but were equally successful.

Stage transitions are so fluid they go almost unnoticed, even in major set changes including the emergence of a giant trophy to accompany scenes set at Oakmoor.

The nativity audition scene is even funnier than in the film, with one child giving an X-Factor-esque sob story to try and earn the part of Joseph, saying ‘my mum’s had a baby and my dad doesn’t think it’s his’.

Similar humour for teenagers and adults to enjoy is littered throughout the performance, including St Bernadette's head teacher explaining the mayor only had one ’big ball’, which, of course, referred to his annual party.

There is even a Fifty Shades of Grey reference.

Mr Madden and two pupil’s trip to Hollywood to persuade a director to watch the show cleverly features a comical bus tour, a new section to the storyline.

The group even finds themselves on the set of Star Wars in another light-hearted scene that provides a break from the downbeat truth of Mr Madden’s relationship with his estranged ex Jennifer.

HEARTFELT: The plot makes a lasting impression

The duets performed by Sarah Earnshaw, who plays Jennifer Love, and Daniel Boys, who plays Mr Maddens, are heart-wrenching and well-lit with dark lighting and spotlights to focus on their impressive vocals.

The final performance is filled to the brim with energy from the children and includes all the classics from the film, the highlight being Sparkle and Shine, a song that could even make the Grinch smile.

For anyone who loves the movie, visiting Nativity! The Musical feels like you are part of the story, enjoying extra scenes and a lot of hilarious lines that perhaps wouldn’t be allowed in the film.

This Christmas tale is ideal for the stage and the performance proves that with great gusto.

*Nativity! The Musical is showing at Palace Theatre, Manchester until Sunday, December 3. You can buy tickets HERE.