Tag Archives: Scott Garnham

REVIEW: Nativity! The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

The clocks have gone back, Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night are over, so, of course, Christmas is here. Seven weeks early, but who’s complaining when it’s the stage version of Bafta Award-winning Debbie Isitt’s hugely loveable 2009 movie, Nativity?

For those familiar with the big-screen trilogy, the stage plot is lifted entirely from the first film. Mr. Maddens (Scott Garnham) is a less than effective primary school teacher, having previously been an even less than successful actor. With the festive season approaching, the school Nativity show looming and a broken heart courtesy of his ex-girlfriend Jennifer (Ashleigh Gray) who dumped him to pursue her career dreams in Hollywood, things can’t possibly get worse. Unfortunately they do. Competition arrives in the form of his former best friend, Gordon Shakespeare (Andy Brady), who is now receiving plaudits for his festive extravaganzas at a rival primary school. Maddens declares that a Hollywood producer is coming to film his Christmas show, needless to say they’re not, and mayhem ensues, aided and abetted by hyperactive classroom assistant Mr. Poppy (Simon Lipkin).

With such well-loved source material, the cast need to step up and fortunately they more than match, and in some cases exceed that of the film. For West End theatre buffs, this is dream casting. Scott Garnham is entirely believable as the lovelorn Mr. Maddens with a gorgeous voice to boot, Ashleigh Gray makes her mark in the relatively small role of Jennifer and manages to showcase her phenomenal vocal skills, Andy Brady is a suitably manic Mr. Shakespeare (his Herod is a gem) but it is the utterly irresistible Simon Lipkin as Mr. Poppy who thoroughly steals the show. Lipkin is a star in everything he’s in and here he gets to showcase his formidable talents while still bringing out the best in everyone around him.

But what about the kids?, after all, this really is a children’s show. The local children cast as the pupils of Oakwood Primary School are drilled to perfection, but the pupils of St. Bernadette’s are truly phenomenal. Added to an already spectacular cast, there’s also an irresistible pooch called Cracker to crank up the cute factor.

The production values are high and the set looks as good as anything your likely to see on a West End stage, and the choreography from the always reliable Andrew Wright is perfectly reflective of that of children in 2018. The roster of musical numbers has been significantly upped from the half a dozen songs in the movie and each is a catchy delight.

Nativity! starts on a high and the entertainment factor never diminishes for the entire running time. It knows how to tug at the heart strings without becoming over schmaltzy, you’d need to be hard-hearted indeed not to be touched by this. This is a show of infinite quality from start to finish and stands head and shoulders above most festive offerings.

It preaches a laudable message of the power of a positive mindset and that sometimes the good guys can win in the end. Ultimately it’s a festive, feel-good, feast for the eyes that fills you with the warm and fuzzies.

Beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket, this really is an unmissable show.

Runs until November 2018 | Image: Richard Davenport

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub. The UK’s leading and most prolific digital portal for the performing arts. With 150 reviewers spread across the UK, managed by 10 editors, The Reviews Hub publishes reviews, previews, features and interviews on entertainment throughout the whole country.

 

REVIEW: I Can’t Sing – The London Palladium

The X Factor has become the touchstone for all that is abhorrent about Britain today: the unhealthy obsession with celebrity and the overwhelming lack of desire of young people to become anything other than ‘famous’. With its tear-jerking back stories, meant to tug at our heart-strings, but which are increasingly making us turn off in droves, the mockable and deluded ‘losers’, the plucky ‘triers’ eternally looking for their big break, it was with raised eyebrows and cries of derision that the news that Harry Hill was writing an ‘X Factor musical’ was met.

But surely Hill wouldn’t harness himself to a project that might ruin a reputation built up over 20 years, would he? And how far could it really go with Simon Cowell on board as one of its producers? Ever the optimist, it was with an open mind that this reviewer headed to the Palladium to see I Can’t Sing!

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 08.52.38The crux of the matter is; Is it entertaining? Simply, the answer is a resounding yes. Did I laugh? Yes – a lot. Are there any good tunes? Yes – a fair few. That said, there are as many moments of bemusement as amusement throughout. There’s a hearty dose of the eccentricity and surrealism that characterises Hill’s work, but as amusing as this all is to a native audience one can’t help but wonder how the foreign tourists, upon whom much of the West End’s economic health depends, will fare with it’s UK-centric plot and cultural references. Indeed, on the evening I attended there was a joke worked in about MP Maria Miller’s resignation which had happened that morning.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 08.52.49The plot is as flimsy as tissue paper (basically that of a modest young hopeful with a tear-jerking back story and the eccentrics that surround the circus that is the TV talent show circuit) and the material sometimes seems as if it’s spread a little thin over the two and a half hour running time, but it rocks along at break-neck speed and there are enough cheesy jokes, mayhem, high octane energy, good tunes and eye-popping visuals to keep the interest levels high throughout.

Its greatest strength however is its cast, made up of the great and good of the UK musical theatre world:

Nigel Harman is suitably oily as a Messiah-like Simon whose self-adoration knows no bounds. He particularly shines in a Las Vegas tap-dance spectacular.

sing004Cynthia Erivo is our ‘heroine’ Chenice, an orphan who lives in a caravan with one plug socket under a flyover with her grandfather in an iron lung who daily has to make the choice between toast or oxygen! Erivo has a knockout voice which she gets to showcase well, particularly in the title song.

Simon Lipkin is Barlow, Chenice’s talking (to the audience) dog (yes, you read that correctly).

Relative unknown Alan Morrisey shines as Max the plumber, Chenice’s love interest and fellow contestant, he has an excellent voice and a natural charm that communicates well to the audience.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 08.52.23

Simon Bailey is a knockout as Liam O’Deary and has the real X Factor host’s mannerisms down pat. The only gripe being that we don’t get to hear Mr. Bailey’s rather fine singing voice enough.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 08.54.37Charlie Baker delivers a show-stealing turn as hunchback(!?!) Trevor Modo. There’s also a Subo-like checkout operator from Wales and spawn of Jedward Irish duo Altarboyz thrown into the mix.

imageThe other judges are ably played by Ashley Knight as a doddery Louis and Victoria Elliot as Jordy, a Tyneside celebrity singer whose speech is peppered with familiar ‘pets’ and ‘loves’ and whose contestants are “like little brothers and sisters to me”, sound a bit familiar?

sing002Steve Brown‘s songs cover almost every genre of popular music and there are some standouts, in particular Trevor Modo’s hysterical rap number and the lyrics are often a hoot. The accompanying band are on fine form too, if at times, at ear-splitting volume.

I Cant sing palladiumLes Mis it ain’t but entertaining it certainly is. It’s crude, at times surreal, often nonsense, always ear-drum burstingly loud and completely and utterly bonkers throughout but there’s much to enjoy here. Leave your preconceptions at the door and go along for the super silly, surreal ride. You might just enjoy it.

All images courtesy: http://www.icantsingthemusical.com/media/