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Theatre Review: Nativity the Musical

Nativity the Musical sparkles and shines in festive mood at Marine Hall.

Blackpool based Cou Cou Productions bring their latest extravaganza Nativity the Musical to Fleetwood’s Marine Hall from Wednesday to Saturday this week.

Cou Cou Productions’ directors, Sophie, Nikita and Phoebe Coulon, have brought together an enthusiastic collection of local performers, both children and adults, to bring their early festive offering in the form of the stage musical based on the popular 2009 Christmas movie, Nativity.

The Coulon sisters have been running Cou Cou for almost nine years and are going from strength to strength with a growing list of previous shows at Fylde venues. Not ones to shy away from tackling big popular shows, their last production, Matilda the Musical Jr, packed out Thornton Little Theatre in 2022.

This year the huge cast of Nativity the Musical, drawn from Cou Cou’s drama and musical theatre classes for all ages, are filling the stage at the Marine Hall with high energy performances from every cast member.

Mykey Young does a sterling job of portraying Mr Madden, the long suffering and exhausted primary school teacher with a broken heart. His powerful vocals impress in his solo moments as his voice soars to hit the high notes.

Jordan Walker-Smith keeps the energy up throughout as the irrepressible Mr Poppy, with his sharp comedy timing. He is a pleasing lookalike for the actor, Simon Lipkin, who played the original part in the film.

But it is the young company who are the stars, while the adult performers do a splendid job of supporting the blossoming young actors. Every one of them remains in character throughout the performance and the fast paced action keeps the audience’s attention for the entire two and a half hour show.

Well schooled in performance skills, every one of their fresh faces is animated throughout and they perform with a professionalism beyond their years. It is a joy to see them reacting with each other and the audience, with assured confidence. Whether they are part of the snobby Oakmoor Prep School class or the scruffy and downtrodden children in Mr Madden’s class at St Bernadette’s, they are all having fun and throwing themselves headlong into their roles.

Complex movement sequences and choreography create the impression of chaos and mayhem in all the right places.

The second half clicks up another notch in the run up to St Bernadette’s live performance in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. The entire cast delight with the well known songs the audience are waiting for, Nazareth, and of course, Sparkle and Shine. The mini scenes front of stage cleverly intersperse with the ongoing show, as Mr Madden and Mr Poppy try to pacify the children of St Bernadette’s as they battle with nerves and misgivings.

Complex movement sequences and choreography create the impression of chaos and mayhem in all the right places. The tap dancing routine around the Archangel Gabriel is fun and over-the-top as it should be. The direction by Sophie, Nikita and Phoebe Coulon is imaginative and works well with minimal set which is just enough to suggest time and place.

The adult ensemble work hard to cover multiple roles including the Head and teachers of St Bernadette’s. Joff Keelan as the Critic is a powerful presence whenever he appears. Daltrey Wrigley puts in a passionate performance as Gordon Shakespeare, Oakmoor’s ambitious and self obsessed drama teacher.

Sarah McFadyen Capper is the ambitious Jennifer who ran off to Hollywood. Her strong vocals are a powerful blend with Mykey Young’s in their duets.

Pippa the dog, who plays Cracker, the couple’s dog, evokes some ‘ah’ moments when he appears and seems calm and confident amongst all the activity on stage. The theatre adage ‘never work with children or animals’ is certainly not the case in this show.

It is a thrill to see a live band of five musicians (keyboards, drums, guitar, saxophone and trumpet) in the pit who brings the show to life with a punch that backing tracks never do. Ashley Goodinson does a splendid job as MD although at times it is hard to hear the vocalists. It is a pity that the cast having learned so many clever and amusing lyrics, that they are sometimes lost in the sound balance.

Costumes by Regina C, need a mention especially the wonderful golden stars costumes in the finale scene when all the children literally shine.

The show drives through like a juggernaut full of hilarity, visual spectacle and storytelling, leaving the audience on a feel-good high as they stream out onto the streets of Fleetwood with a little of their own sparkle and shine.

If you want to start getting into the festive groove, there’s a final show today, Saturday 18th November at 7pm, there are only a few tickets left. Click here to book now.

For more information about Cou Cou Drama and Musical theatre classes you can find them here:www.coucouclasses.co.uk Email: [email protected] and on Facebook. Tel: 07968 084585

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