Review: Nativity! The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

It was impossible not to be up-lifted as a touch of ‘Hollywood’ in the form of Nativity the Musical visited Wales Millennium Centre much to the delight of a packed auditorium.

This hit British film in the capable hands of writer and director Debbie Isitt transferred seamlessly to the stage, and lost none of its Christmas sparkle in the process.

Every child in school has one wish – to star in a Nativity, and in St Bernadette’s School, which has been placed in special measures by the local authority, this is especially true.

Written off by their lovelorn teacher Mr Madden, who refuses to be involved after being humiliatingly slated for previous productions, it is only when their new teaching assistant, Mr Poppy arrives and brings his own particular magic, that they pull together to deliver a memorable Nativity.

Traditionally, St Bernadette School’s productions have been over-shadowed by that of private school, Oakmoor, and this year following hugely successful open auditions in Cardiff, the cast of Oakmoor are made up of 22 children chosen to star alongside the St Bernadette’s cast from auditions in Woverhampton.

The mix is breath-taking, and the message that every child is talented and special is always at the core.

Of course, the glue that makes this huge cast of children (and a dog!) stick, is the extremely talented adult cast that made the whole thing credible.

Undeniable star of the show, is Scott Paige as the irrepressible Mr Poppy, larger than life, infantile and the eternal optimist, he keeps the production flowing whilst keeping both children and their parents in the audience laughing with typical pantomime, double edged gags.

His perfect foil is Scott Garnham, as sensible but melancholy Mr Madden, and no-one is more surprised than him at his boast that Hollywood will visit their production.

Dani Dyer, adds the Hollywood glamour in a charming performance as Polly Parker but it is left to Charles Brunton as Mr Shakespeare and Jamie Chapman in a trio of roles to bring the spectacle, slapstick and hilarity to rival that of Mr Polly.

Ashleigh Gray, as Jennifer, Mr Madden’s lost love and Penelope Woodman as over-worked head-teacher Mrs Bevan provide the common-sense and sensitivity to the chaos.

This production has more than complemented the trilogy of films, warm, riotously funny and heart-warming, it delivers the Christmas message with a clout. I urge you to not miss it.

  • It runs at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff until November 23rd.

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