Nativity Mr Poppy and St Bernadette's on stage



Nativity Mr Poppy and St Bernadette's on stage



Nativity Mr Poppy and St Bernadette's on stage
My face muscles ache from having a permanent smile on my face!


Now here is a musical to get you in a jolly, holly, sparkly and shiny mood for Christmas, well we are half way through November, so not that far to go! Not only that but this is the first time that this musical has been performed in Derby ever ever!! The next production of this musical has a high bar to live up to with this production.

Here's a spoiler as to if I enjoyed this musical. My face muscles ache from having a permanent smile on my face!!!!! (Sorry I do like exclamation marks to get my point across!).

Every child in every school has one Christmas wish, to star in a Nativity, and at St Bernadette’s School they’re attempting to mount a musical version! Only trouble is teacher Mr Maddens has promised that a Hollywood producer is coming to see the show to turn it into a film.

Maddens' girlfriend, Jennifer, up sticked to Hollywood to follow her dreams to be a producer so Maddens flew over there to ask her to come back to Coventry and bring Hollywood back to see the Nativity.

All this just to get one up on his primary school teacher rival, Mr Shakespeare, who always gets a 5 Star review for his end of school term shows from local reviewer critic Patrick Burns. Last year he gave St Bernadette's school production a minus 2 Stars!

But how will Mr Maddens tempt Hollywood to Coventry, especially when he discovers that dreams don't always come true... especially in Hollywood!

There are two teams performing, Team Sparkle and Team Shine, depending on which performance you see will depend on which team is on stage. Tonight (Friday) I saw Team Shine, who will also be performing on Saturday matinee and Sunday Evening. Team Sparkle are performing on Saturday evening and Sunday matinee.


This is the best production of this show I've ever seen

I've seen professional and local productions of this show, and I can confirm that this is the best production I've ever seen. It has absolutely everything in this show, including a massive cast. A cast that is difficult to single out any one actor, so I won't - well I'll try not to.

Mr Poppy is played by Arden-Caspar Jennison, a role that could have been created for him. Away from the stage it's rare to see Arden without a smile on his face and that joyous outlook on life is transplanted to this character. So much so that when he gets it with both barrels from Mr Madden in the second act, there was almost a Mexican wave of sympathy for Mr Poppy from this packed out audience.

Mr Maddens is played by Lucas Shirtcliffe; as far as I can remember, Lucas is a new name to me but this performance will stick in my memory for a long while to come. A very natural performer and character actor.

Gordon Shakespeare is played by Ben Mather in his first major role. A role that is so much fun, especially in the "Herod The Rock Opera" section of this musical, and I am positive that Ben loved playing Shakespeare, you could just tell.

Jennifer Lore is played by Sarah Doughty, who showcased her lovely vocals in the song "Jennifer's Plea".

Mrs Bevans is an hilarious character, until she does a complete U turn in act two. Played with some lovely comedy touches by Niamh Abbott.

Miss Rye, who has a loose tongue where gossip is concerned is played by Megan Beastall.

The Hollywood Receptionist I loved because of the droll delivery is played by Carraig Quiala.

The Hollywood Producer, who does take a bit of convincing by Jennifer to make the journey from Hollywood to Coventry is played by Billy Sweet, a young man that I've seen before, so I know he is a quality actor.

The Critic, Patrick Burns is played by Daniel Pimperton, whose performance I absolutely loved, just as much as I loved that shiny blue sequined jacket, and we both wore bow ties! Daniel also doubled up as the Tour Guide. Daniel is obviously very comfortable with comic roles because the comedy is so smoothly delivered.

Cracker the dog is played by Molly, who of course received her fair share of "aaahhhhs" whenever she took to the stage, and especially in her final bows costume.

The rest of the company, who were so incredibly good are Daniella Stringer (Casting Director), Katie Welsh (The Mayoress of Coventry), Ava Pennington (Announcer), Lara Eley (TV Reporter/Director 3), Oscar Drake (The Priest), Eleanor Leatham (Security Guard), Charlotte Diggle (Director 1 and TJ's Mum) and Beth Johnson (Director 2).

I was looking for the name of the young actor who played The Mayor, as I know that I've seen him before, but was not able to find this in the programme. I have since found out that it was William Evans.

I'd be here all night if I also listed everyone who appeared as Oakmoor Prep Pupils, the ensemble of Teachers, People Of Coventry, Hollywood Stars - and it was great fun star spotting, plus the Pupils of St Bernadette's Primary School, but I loved TJ and Ollie, two characters who really stuck out that I could remember. Others also stuck out but I just couldn't remember the character's names.


As good as any professional touring show you will ever see and hear

Directed by Matt Powell, who is also responsible for the mind-blowing Set and Video Design. This Video Design is of the same quality as you'd expect to see on a professional touring show. The clarity and colour sparkled and shone along side the kids, and I also loved that it had nods to some of the previous productions, which was apt as DYMT celebrate a decade of shows with this show. Matt is assisted by Will Evans in the Directing duties. What a directorial dynamic duo!

Every time I see "Nativity The Musical", and I've seen it a few times, there are "upgrades" if you like with the script, and that is what keeps this show as fresh and sparkling as it is. If you've seen this show before, listen out to all of the new bits in the script.

Musical Director is Charlotte Daniel. This is another area which is as good as any professional touring show you will ever see, and hear. An aural treat from this five piece band consisting of Charlotte, Tom Atkins, Natalie Light, Tim Robinson and Dave Shipley.

Technical Director is Chris Moss, who was also Deputy Stage Manager and had a hand in the set design and construction of this brilliant set.

The musical is choreographed by Caroline Green, assisted by Samuel Reed. This show is the complete package as far as I am concerned, and the choreography is fantastically good, and performed with such energy and joy.

Lighting Design by Jamie Vella, and I am so pleased that the programme names Harry Macdonald-Preston, who is the Trainee Lighting Technician, because the lighting was stunning. 

Sound Design by Harry Greatorex with Simon Birchall as Sound Operator 2. It is very rare that I have anything other than complimentary to say about the sound quality at Derby Theatre. That status remains intact because the sound was of the best quality. To say that there were so many mic packs on stage and not one missed cue is such a pleasure to hear and to report.

The costumes, and there were hundreds of them, were just so incredibly good I can't even begin to name them. I just wonder how many sequins were used for them. Judith Evans needs praise for everything material wise on the Derby Theatre stage for this show.


They smashed any West End or touring production out of the ball park

Yet another production this week that ended in a full standing ovation for the cast, and boy did this cast, and everyone behind this show, deserved it. For any snobs who will only pay out to see professional shows, they ought to see this because not only do DYMT match any big professional musical show, they smashed any West End or touring production out of the ball park.

The news this week that the £20 million Levelling Up Fund grant that will go to the repair and refurbishment of the Guildhall Theatre and improvements to Derby Theatre, shows that investment in local arts is worthwhile, especially when you see a production as outstanding as "Nativity The Musical" is.

I might add that every show was sold out, and when you think how many seats are in Derby Theatre, that is a massive achievement.


Review by Kev Castle



Nativity St Bernadette's "We All Belong Here" on stage
Nativity Gordon Shakespeare on stage
Nativity St Bernadette's children on stage
Absolutely blown away by the quality of the performances, the staging, everything!


The festive season is well and truly upon us and what a way to kick things off than with a stellar performance of Nativity! The Musical by Derby’s Youth Musical Theatre company. This production certainly allowed everyone involved to Sparkle and Shine and left me feeling warm, fuzzy and ready to celebrate!


Written by Debbie Issit, Nativity tells the story of St Bernadette’s school, a primary school at the bottom of Ofsted’s league tables and struggling to compete with the local private school, Oakmoor. Broken-hearted Mr Maddens is tasked, against his will, with putting on this year’s school nativity with help from the very eccentric and unconventional Mr Poppy. However when a lie turns out of control, the whole school and community are led to believe that Hollywood are coming to visit with Madden’s ex-love, Jennifer. Chaos ensues as the school aim to put on a show ready for the big screen!


First, I have to applaud the entire cast and production team for putting on a show of such professional quality. Having previously seen the touring cast of this show, I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the performances, the staging, everything!


For such a young company, the talent and professionalism of all involved was absolutely outstanding. Leading the company were Lucas Shirtcliffe (Maddens) and Arden-Caspar Jennison (Poppy), who made the perfect pairing and struck a balance of hilarious comedy with heart-warming moments. Also heavily featured were Sarah Doughty (Jennifer Lore) and Niamh Abbot (Headteacher Mrs Bevan) who also brought stunning vocals and comedy in full force. Making his first principal role with the company was Ben Mather, who brought to life the perfect ‘baddie’ energy of Gordon Shakespeare, even eliciting boos from the audience which he played up to brilliantly.


Of course, a standing ovation had to go to the children of Oakmoor and St Bernadette’s, this afternoon played by the ‘Sparkle!’ children and their very own Cracker the dog, played by the adorable Mollie! I would also like to celebrate the fantastic comic talents of Daniel Pimperton, who brought to life the mean yet fabulous theatre critic Patrick Burns.


From a production point of view, this show made fantastic use of Derby Theatre’s space including moving set pieces, harness moments and filmed and animated elements on screen featuring the cast. These helped the audience to be transformed between school, Hollywood and even Coventry’s Cathedral. The choreography for each musical number was upbeat and succinct and brought to life those so well-loved tracks including Sparkle and Shine, Good News and One Night One Moment.


Nativity is such a special show and brings both festive fun and absolutely heart-melting moments. While Mrs Bevan’s speech about every child being a pocket of stardust and the children’s performance brought a tear to my eye, by the encore I was up on my feet and dancing with Santa himself!


I will be certain to be following Derby Youth Musical Theatre company very closely and await their 2024 production of The Phantom of the Opera with anticipation.


What a way to begin the festive period!




Review by Bethany Hill