Sparkle and Shine Indeed! Nativity The Musical

Christmas came to Wolverhampton tonight, and whilst it may be slightly early, I couldn’t feel more festive if I tried. Because if you are looking for a show that is the epitome of feelgood, family entertainment, then you must see Nativity the Musical, which is delighting audiences at the Wolverhampton Grand. I went to see the show last night and was totally enchanted by a show that has so much heart and warmth. In the words of my fave Christmas song, it Sparkles and Shines from start to finish.

You may remember Nativity from the Martin Freeman movie that has become a bit of a Christmas classic, but for those who haven’t seen the movie, Nativity is the tale of three childhood friends who all go into acting but fail in this chosen career. The two male actors, Mr Maddens and Mr Shakespeare, become primary teachers in two very different schools, whilst Jennifer, who is also the girlfriend of Mr Maddens, pursues her dream of working in Hollywood, leaving Maddens one Christmas. Maddens and Shakespeare get into a deep rivalry when it comes to the annual Nativity performance, both seeking a five star review from local reviewer Patrick Burns, with only Shakespeare, working at the exclusive Oakmoor School, getting it. Despondent over the loss of Jennifer, and the humiliation of theĀ  St Bernadette’s nativity, Mr Madden decides he hates Christmas. But when headteacher Mrs Bevan decides that the school is going to have another try at the nativity, and that Mr Maddens is going to be in charge, things start to catapult out of control. Add into the mix the arrival of the loveable, but slightly crazy Mr Poppy as his new classroom assistant, and you have all the ingredients for a Christmas disaster.

Nativity is a total joy, not least because of the joyous performances. The leads are just wonderful, with Scott Paige a standout as Mr Poppy, playing the role with the childlike exuberance it needs. His Mr Poppy isn’t just ‘down with the kids’, he is a real child-man, and is totally delightful, and so easy to fall in love with as a result. Scott Garnham, who I loved in Billy Elliot, plays Mr Maddens as a perfect foil for the energy of Mr Poppy he adds balance and pathos to the piece, particularly in the scene where he reads the letters the children have wrote for Santa. Ashleigh Gray as Jennifer is also very good, particularly in the scene where she sings the poignant ‘Jennifer’s request’, whilst Charles Brunton is hilariously funny as Mr Shakespeare, who is almost a perfect pantomime style baddy, I loved his over the top rendition of ‘Herod the Rock Opera’ which is frankly hilarious and terrifying in equal measure. Love Island’s Dani Dyer is a surprise addition to the casting, but works really well as Polly Parker, bringing her trademark warmth and personality to the role of the studio head with a heart.

But as good as all those central performances are, it is the children who are at the heart of Nativity, and totally steal the show. Forget all ideas of the stage school kids that can be frighteningly professional (and slightly scary if I’m honest), the children of Nativity are adorable, totally melting the hearts of even the hardest critic. The warmth and exuberance of their performances feel totally real and natural, and each and every one of them just shine. There could not have been an audience member who didn’t have a lump in their throat during the poignant, heartfelt ‘Dear Father Christmas’ whilst the songs of the ‘Nativity’ itself are alive with humour and sass. By the time the curtain falls, after the incredibly catchy ‘Sparkle and Shine’. they have the audience on their feet, totally believing they have witnessed the rebirth of St Bernadette’s.


NATIVITY-THE-MUSICAL.-The-Children-of-St-Bernadettes.-Photo-by-RIchard-Davenport-

 

Nativity is a total delight, a must see for anyone with a love of musicals, the underdog, and, of course, Christmas. Just Fabulous for all ages, you leave the theatre ready to put your Christmas tree up and hang those decorations.

 

 

Nativity the Musical

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

31 Oct – 02 Nov 2019

 

Click here for ticket information.

Club Tropicana Brings Fun And Sunshine To Wolverhampton

If your musical tastes tend to lead to the decade of shoulder pads, Dynasty, Ra Ra skirts and Wham, then you really need to make sure you check out ‘Club Tropicana’, the bright and shiny ode to 1980s package holidays that opened at the Wolverhampton Grand last night. Full of classic 80s songs by the likes of ABC, Aha, Cyndi Lauper and Depeche Mode, and with an hilarious, scene stealing performance by veteran comedienne Kate Robbins, Club Tropicana brings fun and sunshine in spades, and had its approving audience dancing in the aisles.

Olly and Lorraine are about to get married, when Lorraine gets cold feet and jilts Olly at the alter. She decides to go on the honeymoon, not realising that Olly and his friends have also chosen to go to the same hotel, the Club Tropicana (where the drinks are free, but only the first one). The hotel is ran by Serena and Robert, an obvious couple, except Robert doesn’t seem to realise it yet, and also has a team that includes entertainments manager Garry and cleaner Consuela. The hotel is in the running for a prestigious award, but someone is trying to sabotage their chances. Is snooty hotel guest Christine really the inspector, or does she have an ulterior motive for her designs on Garry?

Club Tropicana is the ultimate in camp, feelgood fun. It is hilariously funny, sometimes rude and saucy in the way of seaside postcards and Carry On films, and the cast are clearly having a great deal of fun with it, which translates to a great level of audience enjoyment. Joe McElderry once again proves himself to be a supreme talent, his vocals are already proven, but his comic touch and ability to send himself up mark him as a theatrical light for years to come. Former Sugababe Amelle Berrabah (Serena) and her leading man Neil McDermott (Robert) are also great, almost playing their roles straight as madness and mayhem go on all around them. Emily Tierney as Christine has fun with her camp, bitchy role, particularly when she sings the classic Temptation as she tries to seduce the Miami Vice like Robert. But it is Kate the great Robbins, as the hilarious Consuela,who really steals the show, whether it be gesturing ‘I’ve got a sign’, or showcasing her inimitable range of voices (including Jim Bowen I kid you not!). Her physical comedy is just so funny, she lights up every scene she is in.

Club Tropicana isn’t Shakespeare, but it is great fun. Definitely worth a look this Spring.

CLUB TROPICANA – The Musical

30 Apr – 04 May 2019

Click here for ticket information

 

Ghost The Musical – Beautifully Heartbreaking

It is one of the most iconic movie love stories and translates beautifully onto the stage. Ghost The Musical may well be the best show you can see to open 2019 theatre season. Hauntingly beautiful, spine-chilling and heart-breaking, Ghost, which is now showing at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, paints pictures that linger in the memory long after it’s emotional finale. In short, it is a memorising piece of theatre.

 

The story is true to the film, Sam and Molly are the young couple with a perfect present and a promising future. All this comes to a sudden and violent end when Sam is murdered, seemingly in a mugging incident that goes horrifically wrong. This was the first sign of the awesome special effects that impressed throughout the musical. Sam leaves his body and runs across the stage, whilst his actual body remains on the floor. I know this film well, but even so I actually thought Sam was chasing the robber, until I glanced across the stage. Very clever and effective.

There are many more fabulous visual effects to come. The Subway pays a huge part of the movie and this is superbly conveyed through the visual images and props that are projected onto the stage. Equally impressive are the special powers of the ghosts to jump through walls and make things move by themselves.

Ghost The Musical is first and foremost a romance, and a weepy at that. But is also has great scenes of humour, and these are the ones featuring the fake spiritualist Oda Mae Brown. Portrayed hilariously by Jacqui Dubois, Oda is a powerhouse who just dominates every scene she is in. The Rita Miller bank scene is worth the admission fee alone.

The performances are uniformly excellent. Niall Sheehy is very good as Sam, you feel his frustration and pain at every turn, whilst Charlotte-Kate Warren is simply brilliant as the heart of the musical, the grief stricken, vulnerable Molly. Molly’s song ‘With You’ was an emotional high point of the first half.

The iconic Unchained Melody is used throughout the musical as a recurring motif, it signifies love and promise, terrible loss and grief, and finally the pain of final goodbyes. It retains the power to reduce even the most hardened people to tears, and typically Ghost the Musical ended with many of the audience reaching for the tissues. Beautiful, tender and tragic, Ghost the Musical is one thing you must see year.

Ghost the Musical

Wolverhampton Grand

Until Saturday 26th January

Click here for ticket information.