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REVIEW: Nativity! at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Chris Smith reviews Nativity! The Musical, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Runs until 28 October

I ADMIT that I can a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to the countdown to Christmas: I discourage any attempts to put the tree up, think about present shopping, or watch festive films until at least the middle of December.

So going to see in October? Not sure how I was talked into that.

But hey, what a way to turn those post-summer frowns upside down and jingle all the way into the season to really be jolly!

This was something of a homecoming for the heart-warming story about down-trodden teacher Mr Maddens (Scott Garnham) and the failing St Bernadette’s School's attempts to make their Nativity story a Hollywood hit. It started out as a film in 2009 that was set, filmed and premiered in Coventry, the home city of writer Debbie Isitt.

It proved to be so good that the fourth film in the series is about to be released on the big screen, starring, among other big names, Ruth Jones, the co-creator of BBC comedy Gavin and Stacey. And last year it was turned into a musical to further acclaim, kicking off its second UK at the Belgrade Theatre this week.

Everything Simon Lipkin said and did as the excitable and unlikely classroom assistant Mr Poppy was laugh-out-loud funny, and the children — some of whom were from Coventry, all of whom were from the Midlands — were simply brilliant, even taking a rather amusing 'wardrobe malfunction' in their stride. The band, lively songs and joyful acting from the rest of the cast also made for what will probably go down as one of the best nights out we'll have this Christmas.

The roof was almost literally blown off what is a relatively modest auditorium as Christmas arrived almost exactly two months early!

Nativity! The Musical runs at the Belgrade until Sunday, before playing in Liverpool, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Stoke, Oxford and London. See www.nativitythemusical.com

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