Fringe Box



Review: Miss Nightingale – The Burlesque Musical – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 11 Jul, 2013
Updated on: 11 Jul, 2013
as Maggie or Miss Nightingale

Amber Topaz as Maggie or Miss Nightingale

by Amy Yorston

Sexy, as you might expect, but also romantic, political, funny,and slightly convoluted; Miss Nightingale is a show that is trying to be many things and achieves most of them.

Set in 1942 deep in the heart of blitzed out London the plot follows the story of Maggie Brown (Amber Topaz) and her composer George (Ilan Goodman) as they move from a struggling duo to being the toast of the West End. Their success is owed to Sir Frank Worthington – Blythe (Tomm Coles) who spots their talent and offers them the headline spot at his newest supper club.

This isn’t however a plain rags to riches story and although we see the progression of Maggie from slightly awkward nurse to full blown star, the focus shifts towards Sir Frank and George as they fall in love and embark on a secret affair.

This is an extremely risky liaison and although George wants to bring a piece of ‘his Berlin’ to London the heated political climate means that homosexuals and foreigners are regarded with deep suspicion. Unfortunately, George is both. The threat of extortion and possible social scandal suddenly makes their fragile lives even more complicated and cracks begin to appear in their burgeoning relationship.

Despite bearing the tag line ‘A Burlesque Musical’ there is only one dance routine that modern audiences would instantly recognise as burlesque, the rest however are definitely British ‘sauce’ and showcase Topaz brilliantly as a character performer.

With plenty of innuendo and a flash of stocking, Maggie’s rise to fame as the sexy ‘Miss Nightingale’ is easy to believe. The upbeat nature of these performance pieces also juxtaposes well with the quieter ballads and duets of the characters in their real lives.  ‘I’ll sing for no no-one but myself’ is a particularly emotionally fraught song and ‘The understudy’ is also a moving moment of contemplation from the otherwise sparky Maggie.

The popular convention of actors doubling up as musicians works well here although the lack of a chorus or at least one big dance routine feels somewhat strange, particularly on a stage as wide as the Arnaud’s. But there can be no denying the talents of this company as they switch seamlessly between the two disciplines.

Occasionally, the pace slackens slightly but overall the piece is tightly directed and it is a delight to hear a musical full of original compositions. The themes are slightly darker than you would necessarily expect but that certainly isn’t a bad thing.

It would be intriguing to see this production in a proper cabaret setting with the audience integrated into the action but it works well as a large scale theatrical piece and provides an unusual and enjoyable evening of entertainment.

Miss Nightingale – The Burlesque Musical is running at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until Saturday, July 13.

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