Christmas came early this week as the team behind 2011’s Southampton Passion delivered another spectacular feast of musical splendour in an exciting new production of The Nativity.
Featuring music by Phil and Laura Le Cheminant, effortlessly held together by Neil Maddock’s original script, The Nativity wowed audiences of all ages and provided a timely reminder of the miracle of the very first Christmas.
Despite being an amateur production, the songs were of the highest quality, with Grace Ibbott (Mary), Jack White (Joseph) and Andy Stubbles (Gabriel) particularly impressing with their soaring vocal performances. Backed by an outstanding 21-piece orchestra and choir, the vocalists sang with passion and purpose throughout, tugging at the heartstrings of an audience invited to laugh one minute and cry the next.
While Grace Ibbott’s beautiful portrayal of Mary’s struggle to come to terms with the angel’s message was an undoubted highlight, it was Arch-angel ‘Elvis-impersonator’ Gabriel himself who threatened to steal the show. With each appearance the intensity of his performance grew, with a perfect blend of self-parodying humour and sincerity captivating the audience and prompting vigorous applause at the end of every song.
Animated backdrops provided the perfect setting for each scene, the simplicity of the visuals negating the need for complex scenery and props and enhancing the professionalism of the production. Making the most of the screen, a video montage of the life of Jesus set the tone for a finale that sought to put Christmas in context, with clips from the crucifixion scene from last year’s Passion providing a stark reminder that the story doesn’t end at the manger.
Millions of people across the world will watch a Nativity play this Christmas but few will see a production as slick and engaging as this one. With well-placed humour and melodies that will linger long in the memory, this is one Christmas present that the whole family can enjoy and the ideal way to remember the glorious gift of grace God gave us and continues to offer us today.
© Sam Lenton, 2012