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Miss Nightingale (Salford & London)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In Second World War London, singer Maggie Brown nurses wounded soldiers and dreams of fame. With the help of songwriter George, a Jewish refugee, and Sir Frank Connor, nightclub owner, Maggie becomes Miss Nightingale, the nation's sweetheart.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of wartime blackouts, a still-forbidden love is quietly blooming between Frank and George. Maggie finds herself caught up in a dangerous love triangle, when all she really wants is to be a star...

Matthew Bugg's music and lyrics brilliantly evoke 1940s Britain, and Amber Topaz is bubbly and charming as Maggie.  Richard Shelton gives a smooth and deeply sincere performance as Frank, and Ilan Goodman switches seamlessly between his role as idealistic George and clarinettist with the band, led by Musical Director Mark Biggins.

The simmering tensions between Frank and George are perfectly judged throughout, and  musical number "Could It Be" – which the impassioned trio sings together, but with subtly varied lyrics to reveal their hopelessly different intentions – is beautifully moving.

This is a small-scale musical, performed in a studio space with a minimal set and just three cast members, so there is no chorus and no stage-filling dance numbers – but this allows the story to play out with greater intensity.

Bugg's witty script combines Maggie's bawdy humour with moments of great pathos and tenderness, and although some of the shorter scenes are slightly lacking in energy, Miss Nightingale's performances fill the stage quite adequately alone. An entertaining musical production with some catchy and hummable tunes, Miss Nightingale is also a well-told and captivating love story.

- Harriet Chandler