OPERA North and Northern Ballet used to hold centre stage in the Christmas season at Leeds Grand Theatre. Not any more.

Both still have prominent slots in the winter programme, and rightly so, but general manager Ian Sime was keen that the Grand should have a family show as its Christmas holiday centrepiece. Hence the thoroughly festive Nativity! The Musical is running now and the not-so-festive but definitely family-orientated Shrek The Musical will be in situ next winter from December 18 to January 6.

Nativity! The Musical is a spin-off from the film franchise that delivered two million DVD sales of Nativity!, Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger! and Nativity 3: Dude Where's My Donkey?! amid rising opprobrium from BBC film critic Mark Kermode.

Well, just maybe two million DVD buyers can't be wrong, and there is something of the guilty pleasure about enjoying BAFTA Award-winning writer-director Debbie Isitt's re-visit of her Nativity trinity as a Nativity play within a play.

Your reviewer encountered only the original Nativity!, but if memory serves well, Isitt has built her stage adaptation around that first story as the flustered, by-the-book teacher Mr Maddens (Daniel Boys) and his unconventional, idiot savant new assistant Mr Poppy (Simon Lipkin) struggle with unpredictable children, unruly animals and an unimpressed head mistress, Mrs Bevan (Jemma Churchill) when striving to stage the Coventry primary school's musical version of the Nativity.

Looking to outdo the bells-and-whistles show mounted at the neighbouring posh school by his scornful ex-childhood friend, Mr Shakespeare (Andy Brady), Maddens ups the ante by boasting that Jennifer (Sarah Earnshaw), his still-missed ex-girlfriend, now working as a Hollywood producer, will be coming to the show with a view to turning it into a film. Trouble is, Maddens is lying and he and Jennifer don't talk any more. Mr Poppy's enthusiasm only makes matters worse.

Boys gives a nicely understated performance as the vexed, lovelorn Maddens, looking uncannily like Martin Freeman in the 2009 film but with enough individuality too; Churchill's head mistress and Brady's rival school director add to the humorous turmoil; Earnshaw's Jennifer captures the dichotomy of career versus love, and Jamie Chapman shines in a series of cameos as a waspish local theatre critic and a cynical mandarin at a Hollywood film studio.

Never act with children and animals they say, but Simon Lipkin defies that rule wonderfully as Mr Poppy, whether in his scenes with myriad scene-stealing, over-excited schoolchildren or with Cracker the dog. Lipkin – who appeared on the York stage as handsome Sir Galahad in Monty Python's Spamalot at the Grand Opera House back in November 2010 – has what Berwick Kaler considers to be a vital quality for the stage: likeability. And he has it in buckets, so while he may not be a familiar name, his star will rise in the West End should Nativity! make it to London.

Isitt and Nicky Ager's songs, from One Night One Moment to She's The Brightest Star and the stand-out ensemble piece Sparkle And Shine, add to the joy of a fun, funny, festive night with a bonkers Nativity play and Andrew Wright's exuberant choreography as the icing on this particular Christmas cake. Sparkle and shine, it certainly does, for children and adults alike.

Nativity! The Musical, Leeds Grand Theatre, until January 6. Box office: 0844 848 2700 or at leedsgrandtheatre.com