Nuffield Theatre Southampton
Despite first impressions, Miss Nightingale has more to it than lustful burlesque songs. The musical follows Mrs Maggie Brown and her burlesque band during World War 2. Under her stage name, Miss Nightingale, she gradually gains popularity whilst working in a London club owned by Sir Frank Worthington. However a relationship between Frank and Maggie's songwriter, George Nowodny, is soon discovered by her boyfriend, Tom, who blackmails the pair.
There are basically three themes in this musical, World War 2, burlesque, and homosexuality. Writer [Matthew Bugg] has really written himself into a corner by addressing some diverse subjects. Indeed the musical feels overwhelmed by exposition and detail as it moves between Maggie coping with fame and Frank and George's struggle to have a relationship, all against the backdrop of the War.
Their stories do however come together as the blackmail affects them, but the musical does end on a hopeful and harmonious note. Each scene tends to jump ahead in time, and it can take a while to catch up on what has happened. That said, the overall story is engaging to watch as the characters try to survive in a prejudiced world.
The musical also has a fantastic cast. Amber Topaz plays a sweet, plucky and strong hearted Maggie, who sings some enticing and raunchy songs. Ilan Goodman is a frustrated George Noeodny who wants to be open about his sexuality, a complete contrast to the charming but pragmatic Frank, played by Tomm Coles. So despite some problems with the story, nevertheless with a strong cast Miss Nightingale is a compelling, as well as steamy, musical.
- David Jobson