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Star attraction

Did you brave the frosty night to witness the Liverpool Nativity live? Angie Sammons did...

Written by . Published on December 18th 2007.

Star attraction

We will never hear Bouncing Babies or You Spin Me Round in quite the same way again, but aside from the singing performance of Cathy Tyson, the Liverpool Nativity, which unravelled before thousands of well chilled people in William Brown Street on Sunday night, was, on the whole, a reason to be festively cheerful.

Undoubtedly, The Daily Mail won't be spending tiresome column inches on it: the underlying theme of the Liv Nav being the plight of asylum seekers rather than alarm seekers. But did it work?

Well, it was the usual flawless technical and organisational feat that you've come to expect from the BBC with its capable, hundreds-of-pairs-of-hands at the helm. So amen to that.

Eighteen months ago, mostly the same lot staged the unforgettable Manchester Passion, a happening to make any city deeply envious in its ambitious staging. This time, though, the team was led by a different writer, Mark Davies Markham, who wrote the Boy George show, Taboo, and is currently penning Eric's - The Musical to be performed at the Everyman next year.

Unlike the Manchester version, there were no big crowds engaged as cast members at locations around the city, and no Keith Allen with his hardhitting delivery of what it entails to be crucified.

But there are plenty of excuses for it not being as gritty and powerful: The Nativity is, after all, a less dramatic tale than its Passionate friend, and you aren't going to mess with a happy ending.

Seen as the unofficial launch of 08, instead it was left to the affable Geoffrey Hughes, as the Angel Gabriel, to narrate and MC on the big stage down William Brown Street. The one time Corrie binman made a respectable fist of the job, although is another person who really shouldn't stretch his vocal chords to a tune.

Meanwhile the few-thousand crowd kept themselves from freezing (and Jeez, was it cold) by huddling and singing as the all important Jeez prepared to enter the world. “Nice one,” remarked pub landlord Paul Barber, in one of the few comic asides when the boy-child's name was revealed.“That's a name you won't forget in a hurry.”

A cast of stellar scousers included Jennifer Ellison as an angel, the omnipresent Drew Schofield as a shepherd (but, conspicuously, no Jimmy Corkhill), Joe McGann who turned in a great Lady Madonna, as one of the three wise men, and, of course, Jodie McNee as a scouse virgin Mary, “nothing's gonna change my weerld” and her refugee boyfriend, Joseph, played more convincingly by Kenny Thompson, largely aboard a Mersey ferry where Gerry Marsden happily failed to do the obvious in his quick cameo as the captain.

“I've done my worst,” declared Herodia, shortly after one song, and she wasn't wrong

Cathy Tyson was Herodia, packing a punch as a barmy politician desperate to cling to power in the face of adversity, whose scenes and musical endeavours were broadcast from the safety of St George's Hall. “I've done my worst,” declared Herodia, shortly after one song, and she wasn't wrong.

The self styled great and the good, meanwhile, were also at a safe distance: the spacious, roped off top steps of Liverpool Museum, while the lesser mortals, below, rubbed noses to keep frostbite at bay.

But that was the place to be, and the warm-up man (in every sense) spent a good half hour before the show went live, psyching the audience up and rehearsing them, with the Phil orchestra, in songs like Love is A Wonderful Colour and Ian McNabb's endearing Liverpool Girl, the lyrics flashing up on the big screen and torches flashing in the mitted hands of the crowd.

I should say the place to be, unless, of course, you were at home watching the whole thing on BBC Three, as 720,000 people did. And if you missed it you will get chance after chance to make up your own mind as it's on telly all over the yule.

Liverpool Nativity, BBC 1, December 23 and Christmas Day, BBC Three.

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Gene VincentDecember 18th 2007.

I saw this live. It was freezing. I agree Cathy Tyson's singing "ability" was woeful, a real low point. My wife was wondering if she was on steriods (good for the macho persona but not too good for the voicebox). However the guy playing Joseph was a high point.I did see the Manchester Passion but since I watched that on TV (and agree was great telly), it was difficult to compare with the live event. But this also goes back to he choice of songs as the MP songs really followed through with a punch. With no major final scene as in the MP, the Nativity story isn't quite as gripping either. It was also a shame the 'top' steps roped off for the great and the good weren't as full as the lesser good jammed below... Especially as this was plugged as the unofficial start of 08.

BradDecember 18th 2007.

I watched it on the telly too but I cried my eyes out. It was so emotional. Mary and Joseph must have freezed to death on that ferry.

YvonneDecember 18th 2007.

I watched this on the telly and thought it was just OK. Good bits and crap bits. The Cathy Tyson singing was regrettable and there was way too much Beatles.

AnonymousDecember 18th 2007.

My family and I sat and cringed the whole way through the programme - Cathy Tyson was particularly embarrassing and painful to watch. The whole thing was badly contrived and poorly delivered; like a bad school production but without the precocious five year olds, which, if included, could actually have made it watchable. The city itself looked amazing on the aerial shots etc but that's all that can be said for it, and as a lead-in event for 2008 I thought it was a big letdown.

SteveDecember 18th 2007.

I watched this and was gripped. If this is what we can expect from 2008 then bring it on. Yes it was a bit rough around the edges, but it presented an overwhelmingly positive image of our magnificent city to the nation and beyond. It combined thought provoking drama with a great local cast with audience participation. Isn't that what 2008 is all about? Amen to that and well done to the beeb.

ShellDecember 18th 2007.

The staging of this event was amazing ! Hats off to Liverpool, it showed the city in a great light, and while yes it was a little rough around the edges, don't forget there was no 'take2' on this - no changes could be done in 'post production'. The scale of it was enormous and all involved did a brilliant job bringing the story & city alive!

ScouserDecember 18th 2007.

Thank God for the BBC their creative team their outside events team and their money too, we could not have done it with out them !

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