Show: Nativity! The Musical
Venue: Palace Theatre, 430 London Rd, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, SS0 9LA
Credits: Book and Lyrics by Debbie Isitt. Music by Debbie Isitt and Nicky Ager. Orchestrations by George Dyer.
Author: Jess Pether
Performance Date: 15/11/2023
Nativity The Musical
Jess Pether | 17 Nov 2023 03:12am
Photo: Emma Stow Photography
It’s never too early for all things Christmassy in my humble opinion, so I was delighted to watch Southend Operatic and Dramatic Society’s (SODS) production of Nativity The Musical in mid-November. Based on the heart-warming 2009 film, the story follows a class of primary school kids as they work on their annual nativity play, led by a grumpy teacher, a crazy teaching assistant and with the promise that Hollywood are coming to watch. Or are they?
From the minute you walk in, the set looks fresh and impressive. Simple but festive, it builds your excitement to see the show. I was also impressed with the slick set changes – you couldn’t tell it was opening night – and the festive lighting.
Leading the principal line-up is Michael James as Mr Poppy. A big kid in an adult’s body, his portrayal is exactly how the character should be played, almost as if he’s stepped straight out of the film. He embodies the excitable, bouncy and annoying Desmond perfectly and cleverly used the characterisation to adlib or mask when a few things didn’t quite go to plan.
Nick Bright’s Mr Maddens is a great contrasting role. Playing the serious primary school teacher who hates Christmas, he shows a lovely growth and development throughout the story and you really feel his frustration and anger. Johnny Buxton, a long serving member or SODS, plays another superbly OTT character, the stuck up and praise-hungry Gordon Shakespeare. Almost pantomime villain in his performance, he’s the perfect love-to-hate figure.
Well done also to Charlotte Bedford (playing Jennifer Lore) and Ashley-Marie Stone (playing Mrs Bevan) for their performances which really helped carry different elements of the story along.
But the standout element of the production is undoubtedly the incredible performances of the young cast members. Their talent and enthusiasm is truly remarkable. Confident, bright, energetic, each and every one of them has their own unique character throughout.
Their singing is incredibly strong, both in a group and individually, so I was glad to see that SODS had splashed out on radio mics for all. A few times they didn’t work when one of the children had a solo, which was a shame, but I’m assuming these were first night tech issues. Regardless of this, a huge well done not only to the children on their singing but to musical director James Green for what must have been a lot of hard work.
This show truly does belong to the kids, and quite rightly they received loud cheers and a standing ovation at the end of the show. There are two teams of children and I saw Team Sparkle but I have no doubt that Team Shine are equally as superb.
There isn’t a huge amount for the adult chorus to do and in some scenes, the chorus singing is a little quiet. It also felt like they were holding back slightly, but I think this was probably down to first night worries – it’s a huge show which I’m sure just a tech and dress rehearsal can’t prepare you for on stage. However they were always a great supporting cast for the children and really did compliment them by letting them shine.
The show is directed by Simon Lambert and he did a fantastic job. It can’t have been easy working with two big groups of children, and Simon even had to contend with two canine actors playing the role of Mr Maddens’ dog cracker. Another lovely addition to the cast! I also loved the choreography by Eleasha Hammond.
With its delightful music, Christmas jumpers and happy ending, the show definitely leaves the audience with a warm and joyful feeling. If the show was as good as I saw it on opening night, then it will be flying by Saturday.
- : admin
- : 15/11/2023