Note to self – never ever try to cross Cardiff by car when Wales are playing at home to qualify for a place in the Euro finals! What should have been a twenty-minute journey followed by a leisurely dinner in the Bay before the show turned into a two-hour long traffic jam followed by a mad rush to the WMC by foot after dumping the car by the side of the road. We arrived stressed out, breathless and certainly not in any sort of festive spirit. It would have to be some show to undo the stress of the last few hours…
We needn’t have worried – a better anxiolytic we couldn’t have asked for!
The Callaghans were late comers to the joys of the Nativity! films. The original Nativity! film was released in 2009 but it is only in the last few years that the films (including the sequels Danger in the Manger! and Dude, Where’s my Donkey!) have become part of our family tradition. We were delighted last Christmas when the fourth film in the series, Nativity Rocks! was released and thought the critics were unnecessarily harsh in their criticism of it. What may seem overtly saccharine and sentimental at any other time of year feels perfect in the run up to the festivities. So, despite our disastrous journey to the WMC, our expectations were high. And they were easily met and indeed surpassed.
This show is an absolute joy! High energy, loud, colourful and laugh-out-loud funny. I was slightly concerned about the wellbeing of the lady behind us at a few points during the show due to the strange noises that she was making and my teenager was delighted to inform me that her children had been encouraging her to “keep it down” during the show as she was “soooo embarrassing”! Not everyone had brought their children along and I was surprised by the number of adults in the audience without any children. However this was a show for everyone with humour directed towards the youngsters (plenty of wee and vomit jokes!) as well as jokes about Brexit, Theresa May’s dancing and Joan Collins (yes, really) which would appeal to a more mature audience.
The musical is based on the original Nativity! film with primary school teacher Mr Maddens tasked with organising the nativity show at St Bernadette’s, a deprived Coventry primary school. His task is made a great deal more complicated (and funny) by the arrival of classroom assistant Mr Poppy, a child in an adult’s body who is the only person who has any belief in the children’s talents and abilities. Needless to say that, following plenty of plot twists and turns, the final show is a great success. In many ways the story is irrelevant – it is the energy and fun of the show that is captivating and this stayed with us long after leaving the theatre. The score of the show stuck firmly to that of the film but given that the songs are catchy and joyous this is no bad thing.
The children, both those playing St Bernadette’s pupils and those playing their rivals from posh Oakmoor school, were all wonderful and all looked as if they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. While it feels a little unfair to single any one of them out, little Teddy was our firm favourite – the definition of cuteness who put in a performance worthy of a much older child. The other standout characters for us were Cracker the dog, played to perfection by Pepper from Performing Pets, and Scott Paige who played Mr Poppy.
Where to begin with Mr Poppy? From the moment he arrived on stage, on a scooter and carrying his batman lunchbox, he was played to perfection with Scott Paige treading the fine line between engaging and annoying expertly. How he maintains his energy level for the duration of the show is anybody’s guess but he engaged the children on stage and the audience with ease and seemed born to play this role.
At a touch under two and a half hours this is a long show, especially for the younger audience members but the energy and enthusiasm of the cast never wavered and I don’t doubt that given the choice most audience members would happily have stayed for more! As the final curtain dropped we checked our phones – two nil to Wales and automatic qualification for the Euros. The perfect end to a wonderful night (apart from the traffic) with success all round!
Wales Millennium Centre until November 23
Check out Megan Callaghan (aged 9) review: