CurtainUp
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A CurtainUp London Review
Miss Nightingale

". I'm just the understudy, second on the bill." — .Maggie
Miss Nightingale
Adam Langstaff, Lauren Chinery as Miss Nightingale, Matthew Floyd Jones as George, Oliver Mawdsley as Frank and Matthew Bugg (Photo: Darren Bell)
It is London 1942. This show seats the audience at tables, nightclub style, round a tiny stage. Miss Nightingale is the story of Maggie Brown (Lauren Chinery), a nurse from the North of England who comes with her boyfriend Tom Connor (Adam Langstaff) to make her name on the London stage. She shares a flat with George Nowodny (Matthew Floyd Jones) a gay man, a musician and Polish refugee. Her singing talent is picked up by RAF hero Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Oliver Mawdsley) who owns a London nightclub.

Besides Maggie Brown's difficult romance with Tom Connor, a married man, there is another romance which has to be hidden because it is homosexual and illegal, between George Nowodny and Sir Frank. The show's creator Matthew Bugg plays Maggie's soldier brother Harry and Tobias Oliver takes on a wealth of minor roles, playing waiters and manservants. All members of the cast play musical instruments, some of them playing three or four.

The songs from the show are of two different kinds, like Cabaret, some tell the story of both romances and the others recreate music hall type comedy songs full of cheap jokes and sexual innuendo of the kind usually sung in music halls by men. As you can imagine, the cast work very hard acting, singing and playing instruments.

The storyline is mostly melodrama to be glossed over to instead concentrate on the music, songs and dance. The vulgarity of the music hall songs needs a fair amount of inebriation to amuse relying as they do on lines like, "Let me play upon your pipe," "I've gone and trapped my pussy in my door," and "You've got to get your sausage while you can." The bad puns made the musical feel uneven and a bit disjointed to me, although they are of the period.

I liked the German pastiche song "Meine Liebe Berlin" with its pretty piano accompaniment, and the low lit ballet moves like a French Apache. George who is Jewish and Polish explains that his lover was killed in Kristallnacht in Germany in 1938. The first act's closing song .from Maggie is "I'm just the understudy, second on the bill," talking about her not being Mrs Tom Connor and put me in mind of Nina Simone's powerful "The Other Woman".

Act Two opens with a song about women working in wartime in traditional male occupations, with Nightingale dressed as Rosie the Riveter with risque lyrics. "I Do" sung by Nightingale is a play on the songs of Noel Coward. A spoof aeronautical sketch "Stand Up and Be Counted" has tap dancing accompaniment. The show closes with two strongly sung three way songs.

The costumes are fun with Nightingale showing a lot of leg with a skirt that looked to me like a lampshade fringe in "Mr Follow Spot."

The main business at the Hippodrome is the casino and the theatre is a night club spot largely for burlesque and Vegas tribute shows. Putting on Miss Nightingale with its arc lights and sirens has great World War II atmosphere but "Miss Nightingale" fills a niche rather than being a fully fledged West End show.
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Cruising
  • Let Me Play On Your Pipe
  • Happily Ever After
  • Meine Liebe Berlin
  • The Only Girl For Me
  • Mr Follow Spot
  • Mister Nightingale
  • The Pussy Song
  • I'll Sing For No-One But Myself
  • Understudy
Act Two
  • We Can Do It!
  • Could It Be
  • Stand Up And Be Counted
  • Bluebird
  • Sausage Song
  • This Man of Mine
  • I Do
  • Someone Else's Song
  • Finale





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PRODUCTION NOTES
Miss Nightingale
Written and Directed by Matthew Bugg
Starring: Lauren Chinery, Matthew Floyd Jones, Oliver Mawdsley, Adam Langstaff
With: Tobias Oliver, Matthew Bugg
Set Design: Carla Goodman
Miss Nightingale's Costumes: John M
Sound Design: Danny Kissane
Lighting Design: Craig Garratt
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7769 8888
Booking to 6th May 2018
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 23rd March 2018 performance at the Hippodrome Casino Theatre, Cranbourn Street Leicester Square, London WC2H 7JH (Tube: Leicester Square)
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