Nativity! The Musical, the stage version of the Christmas movie series by the same name, has been receiving rave reviews from theatre goers since its recent premiere.
Nativity! The Musical is currently touring the UK in the run-up to Christmas having enjoyed its premiere in Birmingham recently. Debbie Isitt wrote and directed the Nativity! movies, and has also written the stage version of the show. Following months of planning, casting and rehearsing, the opening of the show was a dream come true for Debbie.
Speaking to Feel Christmassy, she revealed the process of taking Nativity! from screen to stage has been every bit as thrilling as hoped.
“I’ve loved every moment of making this musical! It has taken me four years to get it off the ground and I couldn’t be happier that it has finally happened. I’m just so grateful to the whole team for believing in the sparkle and the shine and making my dream come true.” Debbie says.
“It’s been the most amazing process. Adapting the film into a musical has been challenging but so exciting! It’s always been my dream to write a musical and now I have! Everything has been incredibly exciting. Casting the hilarious children, casting the amazing leads and the wonderful ensemble. Finding the right designer, choreographer and orchestrator – it’s been epic!
“I’ve been so lucky to have found the most talented company of cast and crew – every single person working on this musical has given their all to it! I also get to write more songs with Nicky Ager and we both love doing that so much.”
While the process has clearly been exciting and enjoyable for Debbie and her team, there is no escape from just how much work has gone in to the show. From the wonderfully-festive set design through to the exceptionally talented cast, it’s certainly been an immersive and emotional project.
Speaking about putting the show together, and the process of rehearsals, Debbie told Feel Christmassy:
“Rehearsals have been taking place over the last six weeks or so and prior to that we had workshops too –so it has been exhausting and inspiring in equal measure. “We had to figure out which bits to keep from the film and which bits to cut – and how to retell the story using new songs. The level of talent in the room was awe-inspiring, so I never felt alone.
“With 27 children, 12 adults and a dog, it got very hot and intense sometimes but mostly we laughed and occasionally we even cried. Some of the moments with the children were so spontaneous and sweet that we all collapsed into tears! It was the most extraordinary rehearsal period and that has turned into the most extraordinary show.”
The reviews so far have paid tribute to the strong cast that Debbie and her team have put together for the show, and with an outstandingly festive set design and a musical soundtrack to make even the most sceptic Christmas fan crack a smile, it’s safe to say that Nativity! The Musical has hit the mark.
Debbie said: “Casting was a very long and labour intensive process because we knew we had to have the best. There were a lot of big shoes to fill as people love the films and the original cast and so we needed actors who could be real and emotional, funny and sing and dance and improvise – no mean feat.
“Luckily I had lots of support from choreographer Andrew Wright, and together, we really found some really exceptional people. For example, Simon Lipkin who plays Mr Poppy in his own uniquely brilliant way – he is a comic genius. And Daniel Boys who is so sympathetic and warm – no one walks away disappointed with the performances in this show – the cast are simply awesome!”
In each of the Nativity! films, St Bernadette’s Catholic School – based in the Midlands (UK) – features as its students enter a singing contest. With Nativity! The Musical also featuring the same school, the show has stayed true to its local roots throughout, with the show premiering in the region and featuring local children in the cast.
“The children are all cast from the West Midlands and they are all ordinary kids with no stage school experience- they have worked so hard and are simply amazing. Many people are saying they think the show is even better than the film – I’m delighted for the company as they are so damn talented.”
“There is something very special about premiering the show in the Midlands where it is set. We have had standing ovations every single performance to date – with people singing along to the songs. To listen to the laughter and the ‘ahhhs’ from the audience has been a great privilege. I’m so excited to take it on tour now and share it with audiences up and down the country.”
When the show hits the London Eventim Theatre for four days in December, it will also include a special cast member that has brought some great publicity to the marketing element of the show; X Factor’s Louis Walsh.
It’s a stage debut for Walsh, the music producer from Ireland who has sprung to prominence thanks to his role as a judge on Simon Cowell’s hit reality show over the last decade. He plays the role of the Hollywood Producer.
Speaking of Louis’ involvement, Debbie said: I’m so excited to be working with Louis Walsh. Louis will throw himself into the role I’m sure! It’s a fresh challenge for him and I think he’s lovely – I’m sure we are going to have a lot of fun!”
The show is now on the road, visiting several cities across the UK in the run-up to Christmas. It will visit Southend, Sheffield, Manchester, Plymouth and London before finishing in Leeds. Debbie herself is looking to attend as many of the dates as possible.
“I’ve been to most of the shows and will try to visit everywhere – watching it is kind of addictive. It changes every night as the actors improv here and there and the children do things spontaneously – and the love from the audience is so sincere, I never want it to end”.
To purchase tickets for Nativity! The Musical, visit the show’s official website.