Miss Nightingale is a British musical by Matthew Bugg which is set during World War 2. It tells of cabaret club owner Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe who is opening a new club in London and is looking for a new act. Maggie Brown, shortly renamed Miss Nightingale is introduced to Frank by her then boyfriend Tom Fuller and is hired instantly, along with writer George Nowodny. Miss Nightingale soon gets caught between the 2 men in her life as George and Frank fall for each other all during a time where society refuses to recognise their love.
The show is very well written. It flits easily between the double entendre Cabaret scenes to the touching love story between Frank and George. It not only makes you think about the struggles that many were going through during the war, but also the pertinent issue of standing up for your beliefs, not turning a blind eye. My main criticism was that George’s and Frank’s relationship develops at a break-neck speed and they are declaring love for each other before the audience has even had a chance to watch their relationship grow. However I was willing to overlook this fairly easily as the more interesting plot isn’t their fall for each other but their struggle to work out their place in society.
Miss Nightingale is nicely directed, by writer Matthew Bugg and the minimal set and quick scene transitions keeps the show flowing well. Simple lighting helps complex split location scenes gel together well and the backdrop of the Vaults fits in well as the Cabaret venue.
The songs in Miss Nightingale reflect this shifting mood well from music hall style numbers about how Miss Nightingale needs her neighbours help with her pussy, to tender ballads. Whilst some of the Cabaret numbers could be cut as they rarely further the story line I couldn’t help but snigger like a school girl at most of the numbers. All of the music is played live by cast members and they move easily not only between their acting roles but between instruments. It is rare that I go to a relatively unknown musical wanting to hear the music again but in this case there are some numbers I would love to have on my playlists….any chance of a cast recording?
Tamar Broadbent plays the title role of Miss Nightingale and boy does she do it with gusto! Not only does she have a stunning soprano voice but she absolutely throws herself into each number. Tamar plays everyone from Noel Coward to a horny wife left behind by her husband who has gone off to war in the Cabaret act, each one with gumpton. She has impeccable comic timing with the cheeky glances and each move timed to perfection. Her more serious numbers show that she isn’t just playing the part for laughs and ‘Understudy’ in particular really moved me.
The pairing of Nicholas Coutu-Langmead as Frank and Conor O’Kane as George worked brilliantly. They both have beautiful tenor voices which sit well with each other. Conor’s characterization in everything from his body language to his accent was spot on. It would have been easy to play this character very camp but Conor struck the balance well.
Miss Nightingale cleverly strikes the balance between a serious topic wrapped up and made more lighthearted by the innuendo filled cabaret numbers. If you want to both laugh and have your heart broken all in one show then I recommend you get yourself down to the Vaults to see Miss Nightingale.