Nativity! The Musical Review

The Kings Theatre, Portsmouth – until Saturday 5th November 2022

Reviewed by Emma Barnes


Nativity! The Musical burst onto the stage at The King’s Theatre in Portsmouth last night, it was a dazzling spectacle of song, dance, comedy and festive sparkle not to be missed. 

This is writer Debbie Isitt’s adaptation of the popular 2009 Britcom. A modern day window into the Christmas reality for schools and teachers staging a primary school Nativity. 

The heartwarming story is set in Coventry. Teacher Mr Maddens is a reluctant director of the school play with a seemingly rowdy class of children with little talent or hope.   Things look gloomy until teaching assistant Mr Poppy bounces in and spreads his infectious joy, absurdity and optimism.  Much fun and hilarity follows as the double act develops and a unlikely bromance ensues.   

The plot of the show sticks closely to the film, with two schools competing for the five star review.  Cheery music favourites include Nazareth, She’s the Brightest Star, One Night One Moment and of course, Sparkle and Shine which is guaranteed to have you singing all the way home. 

I am unashamedly biased when I say that the children are naturally the stars of the show, as one of them was my own son! (proud Mummy moment).  However with an incredible 64 child cast , plus two dogs, alternating in two teams across the four performances my hat goes off to CCADS theatre. They have done a magnificent job of showcasing the amazing talent and versatility within the group whilst providing the youngsters with memories and positive experience that will stay with them for life.   The excitement and joy of performing within the cast was palpable and infectious.  Thank you for bringing this happy and unforgettable experience into our lives. 

John-Paul McCronhon as Mr Maddens and Charlotte Turnbull as Jennifer provided stand out solo performances and together their harmonies were absolutely on point and a joy to listen to. I loved to hate Tony Johnson who was despicably delightful as the competitive Mr Shakespeare from the rival Oakmoor school. 

Matt Sackman as the uncontainable Mr Poppy is absolutely engaging and a joy to watch. This is a role with such expectations for anyone who has seen the movie, and he does not fail to deliver!  Matt had the audience screaming with laughter over and over again. He easily achieves a rapport with the children, the cast and the audience (on occasions breaking the 4th wall) with his totally uninhibited and wacky take on the character.  The comedy timing was absolutely impeccable leaving me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next gag or side splitting antic.  

The show is also a real feast for the eyes as well as the senses, with beautiful costumes and lighting and an amazing set. Highlights include the star swinging into stage and the amazing grand finale scene which had all the pizazz that you’d expect in the West End. This show was genuinely one of the best that I have ever seen. Judging by the applause and standing ovation at the end the rest of the crowd felt the same. 

Nativity! The Musical is an absolute triumph of fantastical, feel good, festive fun. My absolute theatre highlight of 2022.  Is it a five star review?   Well of course it is, it’s five ginormous glittery Christmas stars and a big well done from me.