Saw the first preview tonight in Birmingham, oh it's absolutely brilliant.
Messrs Boys and and Lipkin excel in their roles, as do the supporting adult cast, and it was great to hear Sarah Earnshaw in fine voice.
For me, the kids weren't as strong as their counterparts in the likes of Matilda and School of Rock, though as those who have seen the movie will know, half of the point is that the kids aren't amazingly talented. They're the underdogs, so it's almost understandable that they're not 100% squeaky clean perfect. Also all 27 kids are local to the West Midlands, which I thought gave it a real authentic feel, given that the story is set in Coventry.
I really liked the set design. I thought it had a bit of an Annie feel to it, but other than a couple of cumbersome set pieces that they have to move by hand, I thought it very effective. There are some projections which do the job perfectly well.
I liked the score. The songs from the film are by far the strongest, although the new ones aren't bad by any means. I'll post full cast list/understudies, song list, and photo of the set at the bottom of the post.
There were a couple of issues with mics tonight, but it all went very smoothly for a first preview. There were no slow set changes, and no other tech issues.
Atmosphere was absolutely electric. It sounded as if lots of the kids' families were in which helped, but the packed house were having an absolute whale of a time, and did not hesiatate to leap to their feet as the curtain came down.
Three teams of nine children. During the show two teams are on, as one school each. Though during one scene they are all the same school. All of the kids have parts in both schools, so the teams rotate from one to the other.
It's no high art, but it's a charming show that I expect will do storming business on tour. Thoroughly recommend it to any of you who want a fun, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin evening out.
Nativity! sparkles and shines. Four stars.
Cast List Mr Maddens - Daniel Boys Jennifer Lore - Sarah Earnshaw Mr Poppy - Simon Lipkin Mr Shakespeare - Andy Brady Mrs Bevan - Jemma Churchill Patrick Burns/Ensemble - Jamie Chapman Studio Boss/Ensemble - Andy Barke Ensemble/Dance Captain - Jennifer Louise Jones The Lord Mayor/Ensemble - Gary Davis Miss Rye/Ensemble - Katia Sartini Onstage Swings - Derek Aidoo, Jalisa Andrews Cracker - Pepper
Understudies Mr Maddens - Andy Barke, Derek Aidoo Mr Poppy - Andy Barke Jennifer Lore - Jennifer Louise Jones Mr Shakespeare - Jamie Chapman Mrs Bevan - Katia Sartini
Song List 1. Going For The Big Time - Mr Maddens, Jennifer and Mr Shakespeare 2. Five Star Review/Better Than You - Mr Shakespeare and Oakmoor Kids 3. Very First Day Of School - Mr Poppy 4. Hollywood Are Coming - Mr Poppy, Mrs Bevan, Lord Mayor, St Bernadette Kids and Company 5. Wrapped In A Rainbow - Mr Maddens and Jennifer 6. Our School Nativity - Mr Poppy and Mr Maddens 7. The Lord Mayor's Ball - Mr Shakespeare, The Critic and Company 8. Dead Father Christmas - St Bernadette Kids 9. Hollywood We're Coming/Sparkle and Shine - St Bernadette Kids and Company
1. Welcome to Hollywood - Jennifer and Company 2. Jennifer's Request - Jennifer 3. Herod The Rock Opera - Mr Shakespeare and Oakmoor Kids 4. Suddenly - Mr Maddens and Jennifer 5. Our School Nativity (Reprise) - St Bernadettes 6. Cathedral Ruins - Adult Company 7. Nazareth - St Bernadette Kids 8. One Look - St Bernadette Kids 9. Good News - St Bernadette Kids 10. Sparkle And Shine - Full Company 11. She's The Brightest Star - St Bernadette Kids 12. Suddenly (Reprise) - Mr Maddens and Jennifer 13. One Night, One Moment - Full Company 14. Sparkle And Shine (Reprise) - Full Company
I saw this tonight and loved it. I did prefer the first half to the second though but I think that's because most of the story telling happens in act 1. I found a couple of the children a bit hard to understand at times but there were mic issues tonight as well.
The children's numbers are boosted in the nativity production as well, there were often more than just 9 of them.
I thought Simon Lipkin was great as Mr Poppy, I don't remember the film that well but I felt he was better since in the film Mr Poppy was a little bit annoying at times. At one point his mic sounded horrific and when he was able to he said "I'm just going to go over there for a minute" and Daniel's response was "Mr. Poppy's just going to the loo" and when Simon returned he triumphantly said that his mic was working again which got a cheer. Oddly I've not seen Daniel Boys on stage since his Avenue Q days and it was great seeing him again, a perfect Mr Maddens.
There was a funny incident in the finale where one of the ensemble's shoe went flying into the air and nearly hit the musical director. The lady playing the head teacher then kicked her shoes off and danced in her tights, I guess she didn't want her shoes to go flying too.
I can't imagine ever wanting to see A Christmas show in October!
It seems to be selling very well, or it looked that way when I got my tickets.
It's funny, it really didn't seem that Christmassy even though it obviously is. There are presents at the edge of the stage, right near the start there's father Christmas and elves but somehow it wasn't odd for October. After that though it's more about putting on the nativity and it didn't put me in a Christmassy mood or anything. I feel like I could happily watch it in the summer, wouldn't feel strange. I did wonder if it would be strange seeing it in October but it really wasn't.
I so want to see this but I dislike the theatre at Southend and Hammersmith is a monster of a place which is fine for a concert but I'm just not sure about seeing a musical there. I will probably give in eventually due to the lure of Boys and Lipkin.
I ended up picking Birmingham over Hammersmith even though it's a 10 minute tube journey from home because I like sitting near the front for a reasonable price (£15) and the train was £11 return so still far cheaper than seeing it in Hammersmith. I'm very glad I made the journey to see it.